Monday, May 19, 2008

Worry, Part I

In a recent essay, I defined meditation as the “gift of one’s complete attention to an activity.” When looked at from this viewpoint, we meditate in a variety of ways, and worry~~that all-consuming phenomenon~~is one of them.

As I’m using the term here, worry is comprised of both specific thoughts and the emotions and perspective that provide nourishment for those thoughts. Training our minds to forgo their tendency to gnaw on disturbing ideas and scenarios is necessary, but not sufficient. To make a profound change, one must go to the heart of an anxiety-provoking approach to life.

I know something about this topic, having personally wasted a fair amount of energy on anxiety. My current commitment to altering this tendency began several years ago. I’ve used the Tarot for decades, not in its predictive capacity, but for guidance in psychological and spiritual development. During the time period I’m referring to, I found myself frequently drawing the X of Wands. As anyone who has used the Tarot will tell you, when a card makes its appearance time and again, it’s a message to look at the issue embodied in the card.

The image in the traditional Waite-Ryder deck depicts a man trudging forward under the considerable weight of the 10 Wands he’s carrying. While interpretations vary somewhat, this card generally is seen as signaling a feeling of being overwhelmed.  Importantly, much of this burden is viewed as self-imposed. In addition to other suggestions, we are urged to lighten our load by becoming aware of, and changing, our perspective.

The X of Wands captures how I feel when I’m fretting--too much to carry, but with a surprising resistance to laying any of it down. And since this resistance seemed key, I knew a conscious decision to adopt a different outlook was needed.

As I worked with this card further, two additional images arose. The first was a figure, who now bore a striking resemblance to me, offering her wands to an unseen Presence. The second showed the wands suspended within a golden light and the woman sitting off to the side in meditation. These two images, drawn by my own hand, are now taped on either side of the window in my meditation space. They remind me to consciously offer my worried thoughts and feelings to Spirit, and to fill the space thus vacated with the Holy.

So, with all this as background, I found the process of writing this essay rather humorous. Time had been given to other things, and I was feeling rushed.  The writing was not going well. Without realizing it, I zipped into a worried outlook~~this as I wrote about worry! Would I finish the essay by my self-imposed deadline? Would I be able to craft my thoughts into an effective piece? Did I even have anything worthwhile to say on the subject?

The process of worry was thus delineated quite clearly. I had moved rather quickly from feeling a time pressure to doubting my worthiness. Quite the leap, eh? Worry is like that. It offers doubt a toehold and, if we don’t turn it around, zaps our spirit.

The definition of meditation I gave above was missing an all important word: conscious. Meditation is the conscious gift of one’s complete attention to an activity. A worry fest is, therefore, not truly a meditation as it is essentially an unconscious phenomenon. We unwittingly allow our attention to be consumed by anxiety, and our fear carries us off into territory that is not soul-friendly. Who would consciously choose that?! Life as it is, with its many dazzling manifestations and opportunities, passes right by--and so consumed are we by the web of our own creation that we hardly notice!

And so we need to replace our unconscious meditation with a conscious one. To that end, we need to accurately perceive what we’re giving our precious energy to and make other choices. For me, the image of offering up my anxiety works. It’s what I did~~finally~~in regards to this essay, and what came back to me was clarity about my own process, a suggestion to share that with you, and the groundwork for further exploration on this subject next week. A much better solution than a needless funk!

I wish you a worry-free week. But should you find yourself spinning your own anxious web, experiment with giving it away and filling yourself instead with Spirit.


Loanne Marie

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