Transmuting Worry into Gratitude

Maja Kuzmanovic

Photo credit: Maja Kuzmanovic

Take a moment to think about the state of the world that worries you the most. Whether it’s the circumstance that worries you the most often, or the one that worries you to the largest degree, reflect on how often you find yourself in that state of worry and how much this state affects the rest of your life.

There’s a way to, at least partially, transmute this worrying into gratitude by using its own power against it.

The type of worrying I’m discussing always refers to something that hasn’t happened yet. And as long as that fact (it’s absence) remains true, there is the potential to transmute that feeling of worry into gratitude.

In other words, by worrying about a possible state of the world, part of our mind has to be acknowledging that the world as it is right now doesn’t include the thing we’re worried about. It seems that we rarely notice this repository of relief within the state of worry, possibly because it’s drowned out by the worrying itself.

If we go back to reflecting on the things that we were most worried about above, is it possible to feel grateful for the fact that our worry hasn’t come true yet?

Is it possible to acknowledge that, to the extent that we’re anxious about an upcoming event, we can also feel relieved and happy about the fact that we’re living in this world as opposed to the one we’re worried about?

Ideally, it could affect our state of mind to the same extent as the worrying does, but along the dimensions of gratitude and relief.


Learning How To Meditate: Part One

I want to share a bit of guidance that was extremely useful to me when I received it. I hope that it comes at the right time for at least one person that reads this.

I became interested in learning how to meditate after listening to talks given by somebody who I felt had a lot of wisdom to share on the topic of emotional self-regulation and clearsighted decision making. He seemed to me to be someone who embodied qualities that I wanted to bring into my life. Naturally, I tried to get a sense of what his secret was. I read most of the material on his blog, and decided that I would try meditating according to his instructions. By being introduced to the practice and being motivated to learn more about it, I was introduced to a vast reservoir of teachings that always seemed to be tailored to my specific needs, probably because they just had so much to teach. This is the video he chose to introduce the topic, and I think its a timeless talk for anyone who wants to know more about what meditation is and how it can be a resource in their own life:

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend taking an hour or so for yourself, getting comfortable in a personal space, and watching or listening to the video in its fullness.  I listened to about 20 minutes of this video this morning (from about the 25 minute-45 minute mark) as a part of my daily sitting practice. The act of putting aside time to be with your own experience and observe it directly and openly is infinitely valuable. It acts as an important declaration, if nothing else, that you are willing to invest time and energy into yourself.  At the least, it is an acknowledgement that you are willing to take the time to listen, even if that is uncomfortable, to the reality of what you’re life is and be open to what it has the potential to be.

Full minute-back guarantee. Every time you meditate you will get that time back by increasing the quality of the rest of your day. I always feel like my day is made longer, no matter how long my meditation is.

It Is Always Now

I want to share a 5-minute snippet from Sam Harris in his lecture “Death in the Present Moment”

I think Sam Harris expresses this truth exceptionally well, and it is more useful to take another listen than to hear me expound on it. However, I will say I think Sam Harris is right, in that there is probably nothing more important to understand about your mind than this if you want to be happy in this world.

I will also add that the ability to drop your problem and appreciate the intrinsically good experience of life moment to moment is a skill that can be honed, like any other, and the benefits of learning and developing this skill are unique in terms of how fruitful they can be in our day to day lives.

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

I’m writing the beginning of this on the plane again; a wise man once told me that he only reads during the first and last 20 minutes of plane rides. Not his wisest words but it’s a pretty funny concept. We just left Dubai and Oman. I really liked the beginning of our travels. It was a good mix of spending time with family, meeting new people, discovering the city, and enjoying it. While I was there I took a lot of time to read, reflect and meditate, probably because the internet wasn’t working (which is almost always a blessing in disguise)… I’m probably on my computer too much for my own good. Anyways, I got really enticed by an idea and as usual I assumed that my whole life would change overnight if I implemented it into my day to day life (it don’t work like that keed). It was a mix of inspiration from Haseeb Qureshi (ex-poker player’s) blog, and my interpretation of concepts from meditation and this book I’m reading called Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I recommend both of the those.

Haseeb wrote on the subject of “trusting in the process” in poker and in life. Making the best decision over and over in the moment and then just trusting without gauging or checking that you will be rewarded in the process. He compared poker to climbing a mountain and wrote

“You start climbing, scrambling, kicking and scraping your way up this treacherous mountain with your eyes fixed on the peak, because that’s where you want to be in the end. But that’s not how you climb a mountain. The only way to climb a mountain, as any climber will tell you, is by looking where you are. By finding a rock to reach for, another for footing, and one by one, moment by moment, to climb. To climb, and to throw yourself into climbing. Looking up or down is irrelevant.”

Haseeb’s metaphor is drawn up for poker but I think the concept is good for everyday life and general happiness. Sometimes I find myself going through things and focusing on the finish line instead of the stretch of concrete in front of me, and it takes me out of the moment, making me susceptible to being resistant or irritable when the flow leading up to an event is interrupted or different than I expected. Sometimes consciously or subconsciously, I think we project what the memory of an event is going to be before we even fully experience it. But that isn’t how good memories are made. It’s best to be focused on the present, moment by moment and let the rest flow naturally.

I was reminded of all of this while I played a game of golf here a couple of days ago, and I think I like it better as an example than the one about climbing a mountain, especially because it focuses on a target that you want to hit over and over rather than a goal that you can either reach or not reach.  Let’s say you’re golfing and you’re teeing off on the first hole of the course. If you want to play your best, you can’t look at the hole while you shoot, even though that is the target you’re aiming for. You should know where the hole is but you really need to shift your focus to hitting the ball right in front of you now and getting closer to where you want to be. Now let’s say that you made it on the green in x number of shots. It’s not going to do you any good to think about how many shots it took to get there or how many it might take to get in the hole. The only thing worth focusing on is putting right now. Now let’s say you’re teeing off for the last hole of the course and you want to know your score. It does you no good to check your results and avert your attention. You might see your score and think, “okay I just need to make par on this next hole and I can still tie” or something of that matter, but the way to play your best and score your best is to be focused on doing your best in the present moment, and to trust in the process along the way.

Poker forces me to think about stuff like this, which is probably one of my favorite parts of the experience, but for anyone completely uninterested in poker I hope this helps with your putting.