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Thursday, November 27, 2008

How to Live Without Anxiety or Worry

Living the Unconcerned Life - Choosing to End Worry

“Unconcerned” doesn’t sound so great at first. “Living the Unconcerned Life” may seem that we are advocating living unconsciously - without attention, thought, or compassion. Shouldn’t we want to be “concerned” about the affairs of our lives and show “concern” for the welfare of others? While being “concerned” might indicate that we are interested, have caring feelings, and consider something or someone important, at the bottom line, being “concerned” is being WORRIED, and WORRY is just a nagging form of FEAR.

Living the Unconcerned Life is living a life without anxiety or worry - especially in those situations where anxiety and worry would seem to be expected and “natural.”

Each of us is concerned from time to time. Have I ever been concerned? Yes. My tight chest and shallow breathing don’t lie. Concern and fear - Yes. So what is all this about Living the Unconcerned Life, if I have concerns? It’s a matter of degree and consciousness. How long and how intensely do I remain concerned, and to what extent am I able to consciously manage my level of concern?

In 21st Century America, almost all of us are concerned with money - to some degree and in some way. Most of us want more money, and we experience a high level of concern much of the time. A few of us think that money is bad or evil, and believe that no one should be allowed to be wealthy. This is equally an intense concern about money. Whatever our beliefs, fears, desires, jealousies, and other emotions regarding money, our concern about money is measured by the amount of time and the level of intensity we direct toward the subject of money. To be “unconcerned” about money is to spend no time or energy whatsoever on the subject.

Money is just one example of our concerns. Whatever we direct our time and energy toward, that doesn’t give us Joy, is a “concern.”

Exercise: Get comfortable and contemplate the following questions: How much time and energy do I spend on what I wear? Or how I look, whether I’m liked and respected, what I eat, my health, my bank account, my job, my retirement, my family, my safety, the weather, prices, shortages, government, big business, terrorists, crime, epidemics, foreign affairs, the economy, and everything on the 11 o’clock news?

Our Joy comes from living our own lives simply - never from demanding that others live simply - or from ever making any demands whatsoever upon others.
- jlh

Remember that “concern” is about the time, energy, and emotion that we direct toward worrying about something or someone - not whether we are for that something or against it. However, nothing that we do for fun is ever a “concern.”

“Concern” is a natural emotion for humans, but we can minimize our suffering by recognizing the nature of our concerns, and by consciously focusing our attention on our gratitude for the Joys of our life.

Today In-My-World: Whenever I recognize that I am experiencing a concern, I question what I am really afraid of - being very specific, and continuing to look more deeply. Then I question whether I choose to continue to devote time and energy to the concern. Is this concern worth suffering over - perhaps even to the degree of impacting my physical health?

Consciously going through this process works. It is very different from just trying to tell myself “calm down, don’t worry, everything is okay.” The intermediate steps of specifically identifying the lowest level, most basic fears and possible consequences are what make this process work. Try it.

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