Worry. I am no stranger to that particular affliction, one to which the human mind is particularly prone. Evolutionarily speaking, the brain’s ability to anticipate potential problems kept us fed, sheltered, and safe from predators. In other words, worry kept us alive.
But in our modern world, this same tendency leads to chronic stress, which is harmful in any number of ways, wreaking havoc with body, heart and soul. Fortunately, the plasticity of the brain lends itself to the development of new habits. We can choose what we cultivate.
I once worked with teen prostitutes. When my coworker and I found ourselves in alarming situations on nighttime streets, after we decided the best strategy, Alyson would chuckle and say, “Well, this is going to be interesting…” While I often wondered if her view of interesting meshed with mine, I knew she was teaching the value of curiosity. When nothing else can be done but await the unfolding of events, isn’t curiosity a worthy response?
Worry wants to force the outcome to its liking. It yearns for control, thereby seeking to collapse the unknowable into bite~sized and pleasing morsels. But we can’t know what will happen or what is ultimately best. While our minds thirst toward the future, they do so blindly and without the capacity to weigh the myriad factors that weave together in any situation.
To show up fully while recognizing how little we actually know, to live graciously with our essential unknowingness, is a life~enhancing stance that opens us to the mystery of existence. We are not in charge here. In any given situation, all we can do is choose the action we feel is best. That action~~even if it is to take no action in that moment~~is our offering to life. And as with any true offering, we must willingly let it pass from our hands. We surrender the outcome~~and ourselves, as well~~to something much larger.
The capacity to worry is part of our human wiring. So, too, is the ability to transform that worry into something else. Curiosity. Surrender. And, of course, gratitude. Jazz great Lionel Hampton said, “Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart.” I would suggest a slight change. For me, gratitude is awareness~~a full and rich awareness~~stored in the heart.
We have been granted an opportunity to play our own small part in the vast sweep of life on this planet. When that settles into a human heart, gratitude naturally follows. And that heart must grow larger, simply to hold it. And still it can’t hold it all. Gratitude, and the love it engenders, pours forth of its own volition and out of its own abundance.
Transformation is never easy. Yet lively curiosity and heartfelt surrender, with gratitude and love overflowing, are particularly sweet rewards for our efforts.