We ask questions all the time, although we might not think of them in that way. When we think about the future, what comes to mind for many is the uncertainty that we will be facing—the we includes ourselves, the world we live in and all those loose ends. Because our temperaments are slightly different, we handle these concerns differently. These concerns can seem daunting at times, and yet at other times, like an exciting adventure.
“Oh if only I could just turn off that worry machine, my life would be so much better, we wish.” It seems like a machine anyway. And does all that worry do any good? Last year I got a powerful reminder. One of my favorite movies was Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks plays a lawyer who is representing a Russian spy portrayed by Mark Rylance at the height of the Cold War. When he explains to the spy that he is facing the death penalty, the spy doesn’t seem too worried. When Tom Hanks comments on his seeming lack of concern, the spy replies with a puzzled expression, “Will that help?” That statement hit home.
We know by now that worry doesn’t help. What helps is clear thinking. Turning off that worry machine is a mighty challenge, one worthy of our best effort. Let’s say we don’t turn it all the way off but we diminish it’s effect on us. Perhaps each day we’re able to turn it all the way off even if just for a brief interval.
Let me share a strategy that I have found effective. If you have been a reader of Letters on Life you know that I strongly believe that how you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day. With that in mind take the time to begin your day with five or ten minutes of quiet inner reflection before jumping into the day. It might be a form a meditation, or journaling or whatever works for you.
In the following dialogue from the Soul of Uncertainty, which will be released in November, Mervin, a mysterious modern-day mystic, shares with Buddy, the main character, the importance of wondering about the highlight of the day.
“After you’ve meditated and expressed gratitude for the good in your life, think about what you have planned for the day. Don’t make it into a big deal. It’s more of a brief scan.
“Then think about what the highlight of your day might be. It could be that you don’t have much planned. Consider that the highlight might be something you haven’t yet considered. By thinking in this more expansive way, you open yourself to ‘Good, a highlight’ showing up at any moment.
“I know this isn’t how the average person starts their day.
Most people think about what they have to do and the possible difficulty in achieving those tasks. It’s a great feeling to begin your day knowing that, no matter what, even in the midst of chaos, there always is a highlight.
“It might be a little thing, and quite often, it is. It could be a smile, a greeting, or a new insight. Being open to that highlight keeps you from plunging too far into that deep abyss of despair.
“At the end of the day, there might be two or three things you get to choose from. What you discover quite often is that you have been overlooking the little things, which make the biggest difference in our lives and are a vast resource of inner treasure.
“Start noticing these treasures.”
Over time this practice can become a daily respite from the concerns that will be there later in the day. When they do show up, you have the confidence that you can handle them. While this is all going on, you’re still wondering about what the highlight might be. It’s a great practice that I began integrating into my life when I was a lawyer. I admit there were some challenging moments, but, in many ways, this simple practice saved me. Give it 30 days and see what happens. Let me know.
You know I love to hear from you. Please feel free to share this letter with those in your circle.
You are the one you have been waiting for,