“If it can be solved, there is no need to worry. If it can’t be solved, worry is of no use.” The Dali Lama shares his wisdom with the world. And I admire the truth of Zen – the goal being to live in spiritual chill with the universe. Intellectually I can go there. Emotionally is more difficult. And my mind has only so much control without regular exercise. The problem is that the only part of the gym my intellect likes to visit is the problem solving section. So mentally I conjure up all the facts to wrestle, align and realign all the sequences necessary for things to go well (or badly, the work out can happen either way). But rarely, if ever, do I finish these mental gymnastics and feel refreshed. Just compulsive. Especially late at night. When anxiety delays sleep, my brain’s answer is to increase problem-solving repetitions – to worry.
The only secret I have found to improving my emotional health is to retrain my brain to tackle a different exercise regimine. This approach requires the exercise of the will. So mentally I must choose a spiritual focus for repetitions. Here, turning to Matthew 6 adds to the wisdom of the Dali Lama’s pithy saying. Instead of focusing inward, Jesus says, focus outward. Look at nature, the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the evidence of the love that upholds the universe. Accept today’s troubles. There will be more tomorrow. But love goes there ahead of you. Stay aware of the blessings of life today. Breathe in the peace of today. Look for it. You’ll find it. Look again. Repeat. The cycle of worry must be broken by interruption.
Recently, a band named “The Sanctified Grumblers” played in South Bend at the Friday by the Fountain program. I would have liked to hear them play, but even more to ask about their oxymoronic name. To be sanctified in the Christan tradition is to be approved by God, to be made holy, to be made ready for God’s use. Yet the Israelites had to wander 40 years in the desert to get rid of the Grumblers in their midst. So I have always seen sanctification as the Bible’s term for being in a Zen-like state. To be above grumbling or worry. Is it possible to hold both states? To both be holy and grumbly at the same time? We better hope so! How else can the Creator give us the freedom to choose and learn the lessons in this troubled world?
So all of us are works in progress, Sanctified Grumblers, if you will. The term makes me laugh because I know how often I am trapped in those two opposing forces. When I don’t laugh and recognize the irony, I get trapped in worry. I don’t realize I have a choice to refocus outside my grumbly self.
As I write this, I don’t know what the future holds (like anyone does?). I don’t know if Ron has reached a plateau in his recovery. I don’t know if bringing him home is a good idea. Or if I will be physically and emotionally strong enough to provide the total care he will need on a daily basis. So much to tumble around in my worry drum, to inwardly grumble about. And yet I choose (again and again, as needed) to release those fears. To accept this reality. To embrace that God knows the needs we have and will have. To trust we are being made perfect in some way. To watch the sunrise and choose to live today the best I can. I will likely grumble some. But overall I am making progress. I am letting go of the need to control tomorrow and live in this moment. And that’s as much perfection as needed from sanctified Grumblers.