“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought of itself.”
What happens when you keep worrying about the future, focusing on mistakes of the past, or judging yourself every day?
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” As we do this, we become observers without making evaluations or judgments about our internal (e.g., thoughts, memories, evaluations, feelings, sensations, and urges) experiences.
When you struggle with life’s challenges, your anxious mind provides advice so you can protect yourself from pain and discomfort. Are the coping strategies you are using now providing you with a vital and meaningful life?
If you are a Christian, you can use your faith and your religious principles to connect with what matters most today. As you develop awareness and acceptance without judgment of what is happening, you’ll find less suffering despite life’s challenges.
We can easily forget that God wishes for us to learn from our difficulties when we are experiencing them. He wants us to have faith and trust that He will provide the spiritual and mental strength that we need.
It has been said that pain is universal, and when we resist it, that’s when we really start suffering. Just like the Israelites were given their daily manna, can you focus on one day or even one moment at a time? Can you focus on what you have and not on what you don’t have?
When your worry mind insists that you need to worry about the past or the future, will you be willing to take the manna you have today and let the morrow take thought of itself?
Instead of focusing on the outcome, would you be willing to notice the process and what you can learn each time?
Connecting to the present and becoming aware of what is here right now non-judgmentally won’t take your trials away, and as you respond differently (e.g., less rumination), you’ll be able to focus on living the life you want.
Becoming an Observer of Your Worries
Set the alarm on your smart phone. Find a quiet place and take a minute or two to observe your worries.
Imagine that you are standing by the ocean watching sailboats going by. Then place a worry on each sailboat at a time. You may notice worry thoughts, images, memories, and feelings. Just allow one of those internal experiences to be there and place them on a sailboat. Watch it go by. It’ll most likely come back. Watch it again as it goes by on a sailboat. Keep noticing until the alarm goes off.
If the image of sailboats doesn’t resonate with you, use different images (i.e., airplane carrying a banner showing your worry), to watch one worry at a time.
If this is still difficult, just notice the worry and acknowledge it by saying, “There it is.” When you consistently practice noticing, you’ll be able to recognize the worries that occur throughout the day and gently acknowledge them silently. Then you can shift your focus back to what is going on in your life in that moment.
You don’t have to let your mind’s worries get in the way of finding meaning, hope and joy each and every day!
1. Matthew 6:34
2. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, New York: Hyperion, 1994.
3. Exodus 16