The Future Of Anxiety

emotion personal stories

I just came back from leading a one-week meditation retreat in Providence, RI. The day of meditation begins at 4:30am and we end the day at 9:40pm. The day includes periods of sitting and walking meditation, taking breaks for meals, community work, and rest. During the afternoon sitting period, we would take a long walk outside in a beautiful 50-acre forest next to the retreat center. I used to live at the retreat center some years back, so I am pretty familiar with the trails from walking on them over the years. But because it was winter, the trees were bare, and a blanket of leaves covering the trails.

One afternoon I was leading the group walk outside and I noticed it was a little difficult to see the trail path because of all the leaves covering it. I looked up ahead to see where to go, then I realized I couldn’t see the trail at all! I kept looking and looking in every direction but still couldn’t see anything. I suddenly felt anxious and noticed a sort of sunken feeling in my stomach. Where was I going? Would the group I was leading become completely lost? What could I do? I took a deep breath and looked down right in front of me. When I looked closer, I noticed a slight indentation in the trail path. I took another deep breath and realized that if at each step I just looked right in front of me, I could see the trail and where I was going. The fear and anxiety disappeared.

This is no different from life. If we spend too much time looking ahead into the future, we cannot see where we are going. That leads us to live with fear and anxiety. We also miss the moment that is right in front of us. When we miss the moment that is in front of us, we can’t respond clearly to situations as they appear, leading to grief and dissatisfaction.

We can use meditation to help us come back and anchor ourselves in the moment. We can respond clearly to the moment as it arises and see where to go and what to do. The Dalai Lama once said that if you want to see your future, look at your present action and speech. If this moment is clear, then the next moment is clear. Not only will our future be clear, but our entire life can be clear.

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