Body-Mind-Spirit - Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness
It’s never pleasant to worry before falling asleep, and yet it happens. As our bodies wind down, our minds can speed up.
This happened to me recently, but then, in the midst of it, this thought surfaced: What if I declared this bed a no worry zone? That would mean I could let go of my worry for the moment so I could sleep. I wasn’t declaring that I was ready to give up my worry entirely. I could get up the next morning and worry as much as I wanted. I just didn’t have to do it while trying to fall asleep. It was an experiment.
The next morning over breakfast, my mind returned to its old worry habit and I thought, Worry’s probably not a great thing to do while I’m eating. Maybe I could declare mealtimes no worry zones. Over the next few days, whenever a worrisome thought arose while eating, I’d tell myself, Nope, not here, not now. Later. It brought comfort knowing that I could worry later.
Worry is a coping mechanism we use to protect ourselves. It makes us feel like we’re arming ourselves with answers when we anticipate all the bad things that could happen and how we’d handle them. But the problem is we cannot know how we’ll manage a challenge before it arises. It’s not possible to resolve something that’s a figment of our imagination. Worry is not preparedness or planning, which involves action in the moment. Worry is scary, disempowering stories running on a loop in your head.
Still, part of me is attached (if not addicted) to my worry. Even though I know it’s not helpful—and this is big—it is familiar. It feels like part of me. On some level I’ve long harbored the belief that my worry was part of who I am. I have identified with it. It is “me.” I didn’t want to give up “me.” If I did, what (or who) would be left?
Even so, I was very willing and grateful to have these discrete units of time and space in which I could release myself from worry.
Later that same week, on a neighborhood walk, I declared that activity a no worry zone. Then, while watching television one night, I declared my living room a no worry zone. I tried claiming that status for the shower, during my yoga practice, and while reading.
I started feeling more spacious inside. From that freer perspective it occurred to me that worry is a function of the ego, of the conditioned, habitual mind. Its primary concern is survival, and it’s fond of running “what-would-I-do-if” scenarios. And yet, studies show that most of what people worry about never happens. We deal with what comes our way, and we’re better able to handle adversity when we’re calm and centered than when we’re fueled by fear.
In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes that the fear of death is at the root of all our fears. This raises the question, Why are we so desperate to stay alive? Why does this seem like the ultimate protection? We’re all going to die. People die every day. Death is as natural as birth, and yet we’re petrified of it.
I’m fascinated by the literature on Near Death Experiences (NDEs), which I discovered as a teenager in the 1970s when I read Dr. Raymond A. Moody’s Life After Life. More recently, I’ve enjoyed Anita Moorjani’s Dying to Be Me; Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven; and Yvonne Kason’s Touched by the Light. These accounts—miraculous and convincing—combined with my own mystical experiences, have led me to believe that our souls live on. Even so, this conviction doesn’t eradicate fears perpetuated by my conditioned mind. I want to live!
During most of the pandemic I’ve felt like I’ve been enrolled in school and the curriculum is “Letting Go of What You Can’t Control.” It includes lessons designed to teach me how to accept everything that shows up, even when I don’t like it (especially then), surrendering judgment, cultivating compassion (for myself and others), slowing down and being where I am, and looking for ways to let love (and not fear) guide me.
My spontaneous experiment with no worry zones has shown me that I didn’t miss worrying. I’ve felt lighter. Freer. I wasn’t any less prepared to deal with hardship; I was more flexible, calm, open to inspiration, and trusted myself more.
Creating no worry zones is a practice, not a panacea. Some days I’m free, and other days I’m caught in the illusion of my vivid (overactive) imagination. But knowing what it feels like to be free from worry, even in small doses, and knowing that I can choose to stop and that letting go is a viable option, helps restore my peace.