According to a Chinese proverb, “That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change. That they make nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”
During these times of great worry, anxiety and stress it is easy to succumb to negative thoughts that seem to overwhelm us. However, we are not those thoughts! Worry is an ancient response that has evolved over millions of years to help us. Nature only intended this as a means to warn us of possible dangers, not to doom us into becoming eternally frazzled.
When we become the negative thoughts entering our minds, we have chosen to believe what is percolating there, rather than evaluating it. Worry thoughts cascade as if on a conveyor belt and become faster and more abundant as we pay attention to them. Before we ever know it, our heart starts racing, we become short of breath and quickly enter fight-or-flight mode.
As a scientist and author of two self-help books on overcoming worry and anxiety, my truth comes from experience and practice. I found out early in life that my scientific brain, which assisted me in studying and better understanding the immune system, did not really help me with most of my problems. An over-analytical mind wants to over think, over worry, and ultimately over react. Only after suffering from anxiety for a number of years did I put that scientific mind to better use. Once I realized I was not the thunderous thoughts that constantly roared inside, I learned how to tone down the voice that said, “I can’t” and “it’s awful,” and turn up the truer one that said, “I can” and “I’ll handle it.”
Here’s the kicker: while worry thoughts grab your attention and can be quite deafening, the inner dialog of peacefulness whispers. To tune into the higher, happier part of us, we need to go within and become quiet and serene. Only then can our truer guidance be heard. Meditation, or even taking quiet moments out of our day, allows us to tap into this inner power: the power of awareness and choice.
By first becoming aware of our thoughts, we can then choose to enter into a peaceful state of mind that provides more productive, realistic and loving strategies for overcoming our challenges. Changing our mental dialogue also resets our inner biochemistry. Thoughts have power. That power can make you miserable or help you transcend into a state of higher awareness that provides inner directions for handling necessary issues, sailing past negativity and becoming a standard bearer and example to others.
As I began to speak about this subject, I interacted with many people who were working through challenges and seeking higher ground. After one of my talks, a young lady came up to me, and we started chatting. She had stopped by the bookstore to take a break from a nearby children’s hospital where her young daughter was being treated for a fatal condition. The words that came out of her mouth shocked me.
She said, “I am so grateful for the wonderful nurses and doctors who are helping my daughter through this. Even my ex-husband and his wife and I have come together to help our daughter.”
Later that day, I reflected on this and thought it was amazing that she could feel gratitude about anything! Certainly she was not grateful she would soon lose her precious daughter, but even in her darkest time she found a glimmer of light and focused on that.
We are not our negative thoughts. We are beings of pure light and love inside. When we can tap into that higher, happier part of us, despite life’s trials and tribulations, we will remain in our spiritual zone, the one that loves life no matter what life throws at us.
The lesson for me, and I hope for all of us, is to concentrate on what’s right, not what’s wrong, and to focus what we can do, not what we can’t. Namaste!