No more nervous Nellie

Tomorrow’s another day

There have been some great comments on the previous no worry articles, including this one from DhiDakini: “In a meditation class, someone asked the teacher about the emotion of anxiety. I remember that he said in answer:

“Doesn’t it seem strange and so interesting that we sit in a pleasant moment and worry about things that AREN’T happening right now…?”

 It seemed so pithy and yet so staggeringly deep in that moment for me – made me wonder “WHY would I every worry again?’ Ha! (Then I started worrying about worrying too much…)”

Less of the me, me, me

Do any of these adjectives describe you: Nervous, agitated, anxious, apprehensive, tense, edgy, excitable, fearful, fidgety, flustered, hesitant, highly strung, hyper? What is the leitmotif of all of these states of mind? “Me”. We need to work on less of Me. If we are in the habit of worrying about ourself or those we are attached to, the smallest thing can fill our mind, crowding out all other perspectives, so we become rigid, blinkered and myopic. I give one example here.

Worrying is a huge distraction. It may pretend to be helpful in getting things done, but in truth it distracts us from helping others. Worry saps our joy and does nothing to fix a situation – we can solve problems more energetically and effectively with a light mind of patience. You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time. Worry is actually very tiring. And when we are tense, people can catch it from us (unless they are protected by the mind of love or  wisdom), and so things go backward in that sense too.

Fiona Layton says: “Habit yes it is, like all delusions. Worry comes from fear, which comes from self-cherishing, especially the part that needs to control the outcomes for myself and others.”

Taking and giving

We can be pretty sure that everyone worries a lot if they don’t have control over their mind. So, when you worry, it’s a good time to do taking and giving for everyone, especially those who are having a similar worry to yourself. How many people have to take care of sick cats or, even harder, sick children? We can take on their suffering and give them relief and everything else they need. Get the self out of the way and the worry goes but the compassion and love increase.

Quick explanation of how to do taking and giving

For those who are not familiar with the so-called “magical practice of taking and giving”, you can find it in this free eBook by Geshe Kelsang, Modern Buddhism, pages 95ff. You can also find it in Vide Kadampa’s Daily Lamrim blog.

Just in brief, for taking, with a mind of compassion we imagine we are taking on all the sufferings of others individually or collectively in the aspect of thick smoke, which dissolves into our self-cherishing at our heart and blows it up. We feel joy at having removed others’ suffering and destroyed our own worst enemy, self-cherishing, and meditate on this for as long as we can.

For giving, with the love wishing others to be happy we imagine that our body transforms into a wishfulfilling jewel, from which light rays radiate to touch all living beings, giving them whatever they need or wish for. As a result they experience a lasting and perfect joy and happiness. We too feel joy and meditate on this for as long as possible.

We can also combine the practice of taking and giving with our breathing, which really is one of the most fun and powerful methods for making our daily life meaningful. Not only does it reduce our worry, but it also improves our love and compassion, and creates potent causes for being actually able to bring happiness and freedom to others in the future. (If we understand emptiness, we’ll get the idea how everything begins (and ends!) in the imagination.) Taking and giving is taught in the books Universal Compassion and Eight Steps to Happiness.

On Facebook, Samuel Forbes beautifully explained how helpful taking and giving can be: “I suffer from intense anxiety (panic disorder) and I’ve found meditation on taking extremely helpful when panic sets in. In my experience, anxiety stems from self-cherishing, at least for me. When I’m anxious, I’m only worried about myself, not others. So, when meditating on taking, it helps me think of the fear others experience and I imagine taking it upon myself in the form of black smoke, ridding myself of self-grasping (the source of the fear) at my heart and developing compassion, purification and so forth all at once. Beautiful. With enough concentration and blessings it can work extremely quickly, sometimes in a matter of seconds, not only taking the fear away, but actually making the mind peaceful and happy. It is far more effective than any conventional medicine I’ve tried over the years.”

Victoria Kaya added: “My brother was diagnosed with cancer a year ago and most of my close family suffers from a rare heart condition. I know it can be difficult at that time not to worry; however the time I have spent in hospital I feel that the practice of taking and giving helped me to feel like I was able to do something for them and not feel helpless.”

You’re not alone

As explained in Ralph’s story, we can also turn our worries over through prayer, if we have faith. This method has worked pretty well for many people over the ages! As Sally Anne Atkinson says: “Hand it over :)” We obviously don’t have to be Buddhists to do this.

Mike Hume gives some personal examples: “When I look back at my life I can see many times when I have been in dangerous situations, several involving motorbikes. Once I fell in the river and was rescued and resuscitated, another time I was rescued from a large window falling on me, and there have been numerous less serious situations as well. Once I prayed very hard to Geshe Kelsang and Dorje Shugden [a so-called “Dharma Protector” who is the same as Wisdom Buddha Manjushri] to save my brother who was on life support when his vital signs were well below critical, and he survived; and I prayed in the same way when I was in a plane in a storm, when the captain announced, “A hole in the clouds has just appeared”. Fiona Layton says: “When I feel that I am not equipped to deal with certain situations, then I have forgotten my Spiritual Guide and Dorje Shugdan and all the other countless Buddhas who could bless my mind if I turned to them and instantly feel relaxed. This normally happens when I have skipped my prayers and Lamrim (must do it now actually!)” Maria Tonella says: “In reality for me there is not a worrying situation that cannot be softened by praying a mantra with faith.”

Have you found that any of the methods in this article have worked for you? Please share your experiences in the comments, and let others know of the article if it’s helpful.

One last article on worry in the pipeline! For all the no worry articles, see No worries.

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

15 thoughts on “No more nervous Nellie”

  1. Thank you so very much for publishing this article! I have recently been plunged into a deep worry about everything. It’s like there is an underlying worry, anxiety and depression eating at my joy. I love my life and wouldn’t change anything, aside from dwelling on issues with this anxious mind. I do feel the only way out is to solely serve others and eliminate my “self”ish mind. However, I soon think about the enormous amount of suffering there is and come to the conclusion that why would I be happy for these small moments of happiness when there is so much suffering. It then paralyses my actions. Struggling with that one. The one huge advantage of these moments is the realization that we are our worse enemy and that we have created such a prison. If the problem comes from my thinking, the solution must too. It’s just so difficult to practice without joy. Your articles seem to come out exactly when I need them. I feel so fortunate. May everything be auspicious. Thank you very much!

    1. Hey Claudine, good too to remember too that you are not alone, the Buddhas have got you. Suffering is not real but hallucinatory. Happiness and bliss are closer to reality so we need to allow ourselves to feel those moments of happiness and think at those times, “this is closer to reality, and this is me, and this is my connection to enlightened beings”, so we get the worry in perspective, as clouds unable to destroy the sky.

  2. My guess is as we progress in our quest for an enlightened mind, worrying will simply begin to disappear. But as William T. Sherman said at the end of the American Civil War – “It is good that war finally ends – alas! We become so fond of it!” We have been addicted to and grasped upon our worries for countless lifetimes – “Alas, we become so fond of them”

    Can’t really get my arms around a worry free day let alone a worry free life!

    1. Great quote, thanks Ike!

      You can get your arms around a worry-free hour though?! Just do that 24 times in a row and take it from there…

  3. Thanks for your beautiful words….wisky is here at home now…hurt, bruised and pain….but alive…he will be fine in 2 weeks that was what the vet said.

    It was a good opportunity for me to learn and meditate….i would like to be able to defend all sentient beings with that force …i mean this really desperate cry of my heart… i know externally there is no much we can do to change what is happening…but with a very strong wish to work as much as i can….to practice with effort and consistence…to release all our beloved living beings from the vicious jaws of suffering and its causes …and how you said…let´s keep going it … we must to be certain that we can do it….

    love, Maria.

    1. Hi again Maria, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about what happened to Whisky and the image has so much food for thought. For example, beings trapped in horrible suffering by the fangs of the ego minds of ignorance and selfishness, and how we can free them (and us). I was wondering how i’d feel if it had been my cat, and whether i’d have been cross with the mastin. I don’t think so, because he or she really didn’t have control over what he was doing, just like us living beings being controlled by our enemies of ignorance and anger. Send Whisky my love. xx

      1. Thanks Luna it is true …and is so terrible to look at it so close….so crude….so far from being able to control our delusions …and yet so near to the path of enlightenment….i went with the owner of “camila” the mastin, and she said to me she never bites no one and that she is very old and hardly can walks … she was showing me “camila” at the same time the dog get by me and began to lick me with love … i felt tenderness….and i knew she was not guilty of anything….but its own karma and delusions ….what a dharma lesson i had.

        lots of love….

        1. What an amazing illustration of the faults of delusions, the real enemies of living beings — Camila licking you with love. This whole encounter is quite the teaching 🙂 (Though Whisky may not see it that way at the moment…)

    2. Oh wow, Maria. It sounds to me that you have really shown such a good example of how to practise Kadam Dharma – showing love and forgiveness, not blaming living beings; but blaming their delusions. I’d bet your example has had a huge impact on all the people involved – the owner of the mastin, the people at the vet’s, and definitely here. Thank you for sharing this. I really hope Whisky recovers quickly.

  4. Dear Luna:
    Yesterday i have a really difficult situation …and it took more time than i thought to calm my mind…i was walking in the park walking my dog “whisky”, suddenly in a second a big dog was bitten him in the neck and began biting and squeezing him in front of me. my dog is a toy poodle and the other dog was a napolitan mastin (real big one ) on a second i left paralyzed and only react screaming please help ..someone help me !. there was a man nearby and could not do nothing …. I took the neck strap of the mastin who was accompanied by a German shepherd dog, and as much as I intent i couldn´t the mastin didn´t let my dog go … then I thought he was killing him…and started to recite a mantra. .. at that moment a man kicking the mastin and drop “whiskey” but he was very hurt … I thought …. in an instant everything changed and we can not control what happens outside … . but I felt a great impotence because i could not rescue my dog from the jaws of mastin in my experience … I felt that I was not able to react calmly and I felt a horrible despair and helplessness … I think when i saw it all was lost was when I started to recite mantras … Luna, what would you have done in my place ….? how i was expected to react …? … my dog ​​was saved by a miracle and is at the veterinarian in recovery ….

    1. Oh Maria, that is a horrible experience. I really feel for you and Whiskey.

      I’m honestly not sure how i would have reacted, probably much like you. You were brave to grab the mastin, your compassion was strong, even if it was mixed with other less helpful states of mind.

      But what matters is what you do now, how quickly you can recover and learn something, whatever that may be, for next time. There is no point in beating ourselves up for where we’re at, that is being self-indulgent. We can just resolve to keep trying and do better each time.

      How wonderful if we could release all our beloved living beings from the vicious jaws of suffering. Let’s keep going, let’s do it.

      Please let us know how Whiskey recovers. I’m sure lots of people will pray for him.

      love, Luna

  5. This is absolutely another amazing advice I get from this blog. As I will learn how to tune the mentality to help myself from worrying less and less, and I would also rely on God to take things which I simply cannot control, and let Him deal with the rest. We just have to be mindful of what we can do and what we cannot and not over-burden ourselves. If we overload ourselves with worries, we are like tying our feet with a metal ball and jump into the sea. You eventually sink no matter how good you swim or how big your lungs are.

    I have learned from different channels to use God’s gift, and praying is the key which requires our intelligence as support.

    Wish all people could go worry free!

    1. Thank you Snail 🙂 Good analogy! And I like what you say here: “Praying is the key which requires our intelligence as support.” Wisdom and faith do go together hand in hand.

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