Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Don't Fret

-in my meditation garden-

The other day I got an email from a friend of mine thanking me for some advice I had given about how silly and useless it is to "fret."  It was a very timely email because I was right in the middle of doing some pretty serious fretting myself, and I thought it might be a good idea to take my own advice,

Some might say that fretting is just another word for worrying,  but I actually think "fretting" is a more expressive word. The dictionary definition of the verb "to fret" is "to devour, to eat away, to gnaw at." When I get to worrying, this is exactly what happens to me -- my worrying eats away at me, it gnaws at my body as well as my spirit.  When I worry about things, my stomach churns, blood pressure rises, my thinking gets cloudy - worry "eats away" at me. 

When I got that email from my friend the other day I was "fretting."  All the outside lights and garden lights on the side of my house had mysteriously gone out. I wasn't sure if a circuit had blown or if there was a power surge. Who knows, maybe there was some major electrical problem? So I started fretting over it - turning over all the possibilities in my mind, "fretting" over how much it might cost to fix, could it even be repaired?

I came across this little Buddhist proverb: 

If you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.
If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.

I have substituted the word "fretting" for "worrying" when I read this wise old saying.

There are plenty of problems and concerns in everyday living. We live in a world of violence and terrorism and so we might fret over the possibility of our airplane being shot down as we fly to a vacation destination, or when we send our kids off to school this fall we might fret over the possibility of another mass shooting. On top of all this, plenty of people today find themselves seriously fretting over finances, paying the mortgage, job security. And then, of course, there are those problems that just pop up in everyday life, like when the lights on the side of your house go out or your ice maker stops making ice.

Some of these problems do indeed have solutions or at least partial solutions -- we can call a repair person when the appliance breaks, invest money wisely, install security measures to ensure safety in schools or in airports. But we can never "control" any of it.  I suppose a bomb could go off in the mall when I am shopping, but then again I could be hit by a car when crossing the street. Stuff happens. 

In the end, "fretting" over any of it gets me nowhere. The only thing fretting gets me is a sore stomach, high blood pressure, a cloudy mind and a frightened spirit. Fretting eats away, gnaws at, and devours. 

Benedictine nun Macrima Weiderkehr advises adopting a spirit of "equanimity" as an antidote to "fretting:"

The dictionary will tell you that the word 'equanimity' means calm composure. But there is a far better definition: Equanimity is that stability of mind that allows us to be present with an open heart to everything that comes our way -- no matter how wonderful or how difficult.

I'm trading in my "fretting" for "equanimity." 

Oh, and by the way, our gardener stopped by yesterday and connected a loose wire. It took about a minute and all the lights outside my house are back on. 

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