Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of June 27, 2011

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Hurry and Worry

(Obstacles on the Way: Part 4 of 9)

Hurrying to meet the future destroys the present by pushing it aside. Hurrying, we fall forward toward the future and ignore the present. Worrying about some unwanted future yields an unwanted present full of worry. Worrying chews up the present, in the vain hope that worrying will ward off a feared future. These warped relationships with time, our inner slavery to time, divorce us from the present, both from the time present in which we act and events occur and from the eternal present in which we are conscious. Hurry and worry lead us to abandon the eternal present and thus collapse our experience into the time present. Then hurry and worry so orient us outside the time present that our present moment thins down to nothing. In that condition, the never-ending stream of time can and does push us into the future, our immediate experience continually vanishing. All of that happens when we hurry and when we worry.

So what to do? What if we are late for some appointment or event? Hurrying to it means moving quickly with inner agitation and anxiety. But it is possible to move quickly without hurrying, without feeling rushed and harried. We can move quickly when necessary and still be inwardly relaxed and present, fully present and connected with both the eternal present and the time present. Like other aspects of the spiritual path, this takes practice. First, we need to see how things are with us when we do hurry. If we see that in hurrying we eviscerate our present moment, our only moment, then we can resolve to practice presence and let go of hurrying. For that, we prepare in times we when do not need to move quickly. We practice sensing our body and being present when we can move slowly. Then we practice presence when moving at normal speeds. Then we practice when moving quickly. We learn that our presence need not be limited by what we are doing outwardly. We learn that the speed with which we can accomplish something or get somewhere is not enhanced by hurrying, by feeling rushed and agitated. On the contrary, hurrying leads to mistakes and can slow us down.

What about worry? What if we foresee some unwanted possibility looming in the future? What if we are in the grip of some unwanted situation in the present? Does worrying help? If the unwanted possibility or situation is out of our control, beyond our influence, then how could worrying be useful? If we can influence the current situation or influence whether the unwanted event actually happens, then again worry and anxiety do not help: only taking the appropriate action can help. The worry and anxiety can prevent or hamper us in that action. There is a big difference between preparing for the future and worrying about it, between acting to heal the present and feeling anxious about it. We can be concerned with the kind of future we are creating in the present, without the emotional angst, without the fear, which waste our energies and our time.

Worrying can range from mild and intermittent worries to the chronic and debilitating condition known as generalized anxiety disorder, wherein we need medication and/or psychotherapy to get through it. But on the other side of anxiety, we come to acceptance of the present as it is, coupled with a healthy concern for the future and working toward a better future.

Certainly the future matters. On a large scale, the unfolding of history can be seen as a great process of spiritualization, of evolution. The spiritual practice of “be here now” does not entail ignoring the future, does not argue against planning and preparing for the future. It means being fully present in this moment, while doing what the moment calls for. In the present we create our future. We pursue education, we save, we work toward goals, we train our children, and we lighten our impact on the environment. All these are aimed toward the future and are best accomplished fully present in the now.

Fundamental to counteracting both hurry and worry are relaxing and focusing. Relaxing brings us more into the present, as we let go of hurry and worry. Focusing enables us to act effectively, whether in moving quickly or in changing the future by acting in the present.

As with so many other inner difficulties, presence tends to lift us out of hurry and worry. In presence, we live in contact with the eternal, with timeless consciousness, with the peace of cognizant stillness. In presence, the impulse to hurry and the impulse to worry come to us as perceptions, as information alerting us to situations which may require some action on our part. In presence, we are never lost in hurrying or in worrying, nor do we ignore what they call us to see. In presence, we are free. Yet conversely, hurry and worry destroy presence. With persistent inner work, we can have that choice.

For this week, notice when you hurry or worry. Notice the associated impatience, anxiety, and fear. Notice how you are in those states. Practice accepting, relaxing, being present, focusing, and acting with clarity and decisiveness.


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