Worry, the Thief of Agency

"Our life is the expression of our inner potentialities. We project ourselves to the extent we know of our inner status, and there is much more to life than that which we are already living. Let us consider what more there is to life and what more can be lived, than that we are living in the present." Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

One of the things that separates us from other animals is our ability to project into the future about possible scenarios. Most animals navigate moment by moment, but humans have the ability to act accordingly to whatever ideas or preferences we may have for our future. And while it's good to plan and rationalize for a better future, overanalyzing or thinking about it too much can lead to worry, which robs us of present moment awareness and leads to low-grade anxiety.

Worry is a sneaky little sucker. According to Psychologist Noah Laracy, worry is essentially characterized as cycling through a series of "what ifs" about future circumstances. The close cousin to worry is rumination, which is a chronic recycling of stressful thoughts. The difference between worry and rumination is that worry is slightly more optimistic, it's an active process in hopes of coming up with a solution to something that hasn't happened yet. It holds the promise of resolution but ultimately it's trying to seek certainty in an uncertain world, which is a catalyst for suffering. There's no way to answer unanswerable questions, and the process of trying to answer the initial question of "what if" during cycles of worry only leads to more "what ifs." So the thing that appears to be a solution is actually the thing that exacerbates the problem.

So how do you navigate?

According to Dr. Noah, identifying the triggering thoughts of worry is the first step. And rather than trying to predict the future, leaning into uncertainty can be freeing in addition to looking at the possible catalyst underneath triggers, which can be healing. But a key part is being able to step in between stimulus and response, to recognize thoughts for what they are rather than being hooked by them, which is where meditation plays a major role.

Most of us think our way through reality, which is based on seeing things in the world and formulating our own conclusions about it. Thoughts create your reality, and consciousness is chemical. But the basis of agency is not choosing your thoughts, it's choosing what thoughts you’re going to follow.

As we meditate, we are removing layers that block us from our natural state, which is Bliss. It's an alchemal process of allowing what’s already inside you to come forward. In this manner, we're bridging the gap between the inner and the outer worlds. Any thoughts, stories, or beliefs that you’ve invested in contrary to that truth cannot stand a chance once we’ve experienced the truth of who we are, which leads to more present moment awareness. And it's hard to find presence and worry in the same space together since worry by definition is speculation about the future. While it may not erase the trait of worry altogether, it sheds a light on what we're really up to and gives us choice in what we'd like to create more of.