Worry and Fear

Worry and fear can alter our perceptions until we lose all sense of reality, twisting neutral situations into nightmares. Because most worry focuses on the future, if we can learn to stay in the present, living one day or one moment at a time, we take positive steps towards warding off the effects of fear.

— Courage to Change

For me, learning to guard my mind from worrying about the future and learning to trust in a greater reality is one of my main, on-going, steadfast practices. It is the basis of my spiritual stability. It is a freedom to be able to let go of my thoughts and bring my mind back to the activities of this moment. I practice this in zazen but it is also the practice that permeates my days. It is a simple practice and hard to do.

When I was on pilgrimage a decade ago and in distress, one of the teachers I visited said, “Put your full focus on your practice and let the rest, all the problems, take care of themselves.” When I find myself in a hard situation, I go back to this instruction. I return myself to this moment and take refuge in total dynamic functioning

We can take refuge in total dynamic working. What we know or see with our discursive minds is only a very partial picture of what is happening. This partial picture is only seen through our own vantage point, our own eyes and self. This is the ground of worrying. We don’t see all the invisible connections and inter-being of all the parts. The more we trust in interconnection, the more we can let go. Do our best in the moment and then let go. Make the decisions of the moment and trust in the universal perspective.

In my teaching life, I’ve noticed that one of the hardest things for people is to trust. What are we trusting? I think this is connected to the refuges; trusting in buddha, dharma and sangha. Katagiri Roshi often said that the world is working in peace and harmony. Underneath all the human-made troubles and predicaments, the natural world is working harmoniously. There are even mathematical equations for the harmonious functioning of the world. Through our practice we can connect with the larger sense of harmony and order in the world and trust it. This harmony includes birth and death. In facing and dealing with our fear of death, we calm down the source of our greatest worry.