Friday, 10 June 2016

Worry - Would It Help?

Over the years, I've tried numerous strategies to quell my anxiety. Truly it remains an uphill battle. Just being a Buddhist has given me a stronger framework from which to understand the mental storms that plague me. It is usually some form of tanha (thirst or craving either for or especially against something) that gets me going. Recognizing that is always easier than putting the brakes on it.

A couple of weeks ago, I remembered a movie I saw late last year. It was called Bridge of Spies. In it Tom Hanks played a lawyer in the Cold War. He was called upon to arrange a prisoner exchange with the Russians for a spy he had defended. Mark Rylance played the spy, Rudoplh Abel. I liked the movie. What sticks with me though is Rylance's character. Whenever there was uncertainty about what would happen to him or when he was in overt danger, Tom Hank's character would comment that he didn't understand how he could remain so calm and ask him if he wasn't worried about the outcome. Rylance's character always simply replied "Would it help?" Of course, the answer was always no.

When I can remember, I've been trying to apply this question to situations that trigger my anxiety. I look at the circumstance I'm in and ask myself, "Is this worry helping?" As in the movie, the question is always a resounding no. What it does do is increase my dukkha (suffering) exponentially. 

I can't tell you that my new mantra is a magic pill that has solved the problem of overreacting to just about everything, but it is a fun variation on the the meditation response "thinking" when applied to an overactive mind. 

Practice, practice, practice. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. I imagine an informal poll would show that at least half of us who are attracted to Buddhist practices in the West suffer from anxiety and/or depression. I did quite badly in my early 20s and found the techniques of meditation to be amazingly helpful - though no instant fix at all. I slowly learned to 'step back' and watch the negative thoughts, or simply observe the tightening of my chest and shallowness of breath that was arising within me. I suppose the question "is this helping?" acts in a similar way, creating a distance from the worry itself in order to observe it and not be overcome by it. Many thanks for this.

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