“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” – Winston Churchill
Most of the things I worry about never happen, which leads me to believe that worry is merely a habit, or maybe an addiction. It can be extremely harmful because it takes focus and attention away from the present moment.
The thing is, worries always seem to be legitimate at the time. But we’re really not warding off anything by worrying. In fact, the opposite is true. By worrying we’re feeling into possibilities we don’t want to have happen, which actually have not yet happened, and may not ever happen at all.
One way out of worry is by creating new habits: essentially re-training the mind. The way to begin training the mind is by watching your thoughts, noticing the stories your mind creates. The key though is that the exercise is just watching, not judging. There are no good thoughts or bad thoughts. Just stories, projections on a movie screen. They aren’t real. They can’t hurt you. They are not who you are. And, you don’t have to try to stop them (thankfully), or do anything with them at all.
Thought-watching is a foundational aspect of meditation. It’s become clear to me over the years that many people think of meditation as something that only a few really special people can do. It’s simply not the case. But meditation requires discipline. It isn’t easy or fun. Nobody pats you on the back for doing it. Nobody, in fact, will even know that you’re doing it, unless you tell them.
Will meditation change your life? Probably not in the way that you expect. (And no, it won’t happen overnight.) Meditation is self-discovery and self-recovery. You don’t know what you’ll find along the way, but that’s part of the adventure.