Have you ever found yourself in the position where something that you have often spoken about or believed in gets tested to the limits? A bit like 'put your money where your mouth is'?
This is exactly what happened to me two weeks ago.
I was kindly reminded by a student what I had shared with him and the profound impact those words had on him and his ability to stay calm when faced with a challenging life situation. He questioned me and asked: "How can you be worried? You are the one who shared the 'invaluable anecdote' about how pointless worrying was." (I was going to be undergoing an operation on my heart.)
The 'invaluable anecdote' was a scene from the movie 'Bridge of Spies' that absolutely rang true and, like a light bulb being turned on, it has stayed with me.
I had been passing on to others the words of Tom Hanks as he asks the gentlemen who has been arrested for being a Russian spy: "Do you never worry"?
The words of actor Mark Rylance follows: "Would it help"?
Mark Rylance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2016 for his performance in 'Bridge of Spies', and perhaps it was his delivery of those three words that made such an impact. Or it could have been the look on Tom Hanks' face when he hears the response -- you can literally 'see' the recognition as it dawns on him that worrying was not going to help him or solve any problems.
And so, just like that, the roles were reversed and I, the teacher, was now the student.
I understood right there and then that he was right and now it was my turn to completely embrace what I taught and shared. I had so quickly fallen into the illusion and guise of worrying and hadn't realised I fell into the trap.
I knew I had to resolve whatever issues I had about the upcoming operation and truly rid myself of thoughts that were going to cause me unwanted stress and negative emotions as that would cause many more problems than answers.
What I did next was really examine my thoughts around worrying. I am hoping that this may help some of you who are faced with a situation that is causing you upset.
Was worrying really going to help me going into this operation? No.
Worrying wasn't going to change the outcome.
Worrying wasn't going to give me any more control.
Worrying wasn't going to make the operation go away.
Worrying wasn't the answer.
I have come to understand that worrying is a reaction that we have when we don't feel like we are in control. We are grasping for some way to find the answer, work something out, avoid something.
What most of don't realise, though, is that the very nature of worrying is actually debilitating and lessens our ability to truly be in control of our physical, emotional and mental state.
I am unable to perform, think, feel, or experience anything with clarity if I am worried.
If I did decide to go into a place of worrying, what could I expect?
Physically: Worrying, as an emotion, lowers the immune system, thus making it easier to become susceptible to being sick and run down.
Worrying also increases stress and anxiety. The results of stress and anxiety on the body has been widely documented but a few of the known bi-products of stress are increased heart rate, anxiety, depression, sweating, shallow or rapid breathing, stomach upsets, and headaches to name a few.
Mentally: Worrying affects our ability to think clearly. We become distracted and vague. Not an ideal situation for anyone.
Worrying means you are unable to be present. Your thinking takes you into scenarios of 'what if' and you waste valuable time and energy on situations that may or may not happen.
Emotionally: Worrying, by its very nature, makes you feel uncomfortable. It can lead to frustration, anger, depression or feelings of being out of control.
Spiritually: Worrying increases feelings of isolation, disconnection and having no support.
The bottom line: there wasn't one positive attribute that I could find associated with the emotion of worrying that would help me with my situation.
Going through the process of asking myself: "How would worrying benefit me?" was key to letting go of the fear and unease.
Trusting in the process also helped immensely. I knew in my heart with absolute clarity that the answers to my questions above allowed me to trust and with that came surrender.
I surrendered, relaxed and accepted that I had much more power being positive.