Worry comes when I fail to stay still in the present moment.

How hard it is to stay still in the present moment. There is such an unsettling clutter of nagging anxieties about the future. The clamour of what might be, what could be, what should be, is never silent.

The future robs the present. I cannot live fully here because my eyes stay focused on some dark distant unknown horizon. Details, concerns, plans, responsibilities jostle in my mind like angry children fighting over the last piece of cake on the plate.

Caught in the growing hell of Nazi occupied Amsterdam on 11 July 1942, twenty-eight year old Etty Hillesum wrote in her diary,

If one burdens the future with one’s worries,
it cannot grow organically.

When I allow my attention to be drawn to an imagined future, I prevent the future, from being all that it may be when it does arrive. The essential nature of the future is that it is unknown. Worry is simply the determination to know that which is unknowable. When I worry I rob the future of its essential nature. To live in the present as if the future were more real is insanity.

What are the spiritual practices that might enable me more deeply to remain in the stillness of the present without being catapulted endlessly into anxiety about some imagined future?

1. I need to acknowledge that life at times is simply guaranteed to be painful. Most worry is a veiled attempt to resist the reality of pain. When I attach to my anxiety that the pain of life may overwhelm and destroy me, I give ground to worry-mind. When I face the pain and sit with the pain, it does not disappear, but the nagging angst of worry-mind is diminished.

2. When I am able to sit with the reality of pain I am able to lead a more authentic life. I no longer need to add to my burdens the pressures of pretending that life is different than I know it to be. I am set free from the need to be stronger than I know myself to be. Liberation comes from accepting that, in this circumstance, I am frightened and uncertain instead of rushing to a story in an attempt to explain, control, or alleviate those forces I experience as threatening. It is the stories, not the pain, that are overwhelming.

3. My only job is to be present to the present moment. There is nothing right now about which I need to worry. There is nothing in this precise moment that needs to be resisted. Right now nothing can destroy the true radiant inner light of peace and strength that is my true nature.

4. When I allow myself to get lost in worry-mind, I am not living in reality or truth. The truth is that the force of light, goodness, purity, and beauty is stronger than all those forces I might ever fear. Even if the worst thing I can imagine were to take place, LIFE remains. When I open a space in my heart, there is always room for hope and light to grow.

5. In the face of the agitation worry-mind generates, I need to develop practices that help me get into my body. I need to go for a walk, or just sit still allowing my shoulders to relax and feeling the weight of my body in the chair. Anxiety is lodged in my brain. It is a creation of worry-mind. When I can find that still, space of light and beauty in my body, there is less room for worry.