-At the Desert Retreat House-
I recently had a lengthy conversation with someone who told me that she is "always worried." In fact she worries so much that she finds it hard to get to sleep at night. I asked her if she was in touch with her constant anxiety, and she had a ready answer.
She told me that several years ago her life had "fallen apart" - she had no sense of direction, a long-time relationship had ended, her health was failing. Then things got better for her - she went back to school, started going to a gym, made new friends. But now she fears she may be relapsing - she isn't eating well again, the sense of losing direction has returned, and she's worried about it. In fact she worries all the time and so she can't even get to sleep at night.
As we talked with one another, I immediately thought of something author and spiritual director, Ekhart Tolle wrote a few years ago in his book, The Power of Now: Fear and anxiety is always a product of remembering the past and thinking about the future.
This is exactly what was happening in the life of that young woman. She was always "thinking." She was thinking and remembering what had happened to her in the past and thinking about the same things (or worse) being repeated again in the future - that's why she was "always worried."
In his book, Tolle talks about the "domination of an unobserved mind." Many people are victims of this domination. They are unaware of how much they think about past and future. They are unobservant of how much and how often their mind is so constantly cluttered and preoccupied with past thoughts and future worries. And so the unobserved mind dominates their lives, trapping them in the grip of relentless anxiety.
But the truth is that there "really" is no past, and the future simply does not exist in real time. These are all artificial constructs- products of thinking. Tolle wisely observes:
Life is now.
There never was a time when your life was not now and there never will be.
Nothing ever happened in the past, it happened in the now.
Nothing will ever happen in the future, it will happen in the now.
My conversation with that young woman who is always worrying gave me pause to reflect upon my own life. I am well aware of just how much I have allowed myself to be the victim of the dominance of my unobserved mind. It's so easy to fall into the trap of treating past memories or future projections as if they are really happening. I do it all the time.
So nowadays I am doing my best to live my life by embracing the "Now," and I find that I don't have a lot of trouble getting to sleep at night.
I try to be more observant of my mind; and whenever I fall into the "thinking" trap of worrying about a past that no longer exists or being anxious about a future that will never come, I try to refocus my energy. I "check" that voice of memory and those thoughts of days to come, and I bring myself back to "now."
I try to focus on where I am and what I am doing "now." I try to focus on the big things and on the seemingly little things of everyday life as it happens in the "now" - the rays of a morning sun reflected on a garden gate, the fluttering of hummingbird wings, the texture and taste of the food that I eat. In all things, doing my best to embrace what is "now."
And the more I am able to so this, I am coming to discover a great wisdom:
The "now" is always a "worry-free zone"