This post is about the power of gratitude and the power of worry. The concepts of where this power comes from and how it operates tie in quite closely with the concepts of interconnectedness and universal harmony explained in detail in the previous two posts.
It has been conclusively proven, medically and scientifically, that thoughts and feelings affect the physical world in very definite and concrete ways. They haven't figured out why, yet. Looking at the issue from the perspective of my faith, the mechanism of the effect seems quite obvious. Completely disregarding any debate on the nature of the human soul or where such a thing resides in the body, the one thing that can be agreed on is that we are not just physical creatures but also creatures of energy. Electrical impulses generated from within and travelling established pathways are the very source of our thoughts and feelings. Energy is like sound...it has a variety of frequencies, of vibrations...it is part of the universal harmony, and is just as susceptible to discord. Once discord is set into motion, it grows, and it rebounds on its source. The same is true of harmony;)
I doubt that there is anyone who has not, at one time or another in their life, wrestled with worry. It can keep us up at night, tossing and turning and feeling restless. It can put a wall up between ourselves and our loved ones. I know, personally, that I have been guilty of pushing my beloved daughter away, missing valuable opportunities, when I'm immersed in the paying of bills or some other worrisome task that, for whatever reason, I foolishly believe is more important at that moment than being there for my child is. And so the seeds of discord are sown. Because I worry about the bills, I foolishly cause my daughter to feel rejected and unimportant...more negative discord, watch it spread. Because she feels rejected and unimportant, she acts out, sometimes defying her rejection, sometimes acting as if she believes she truly IS unimportant. Then, of course, there are negative consequences of those actions, and so on it goes. The discord spreads to the school, infecting teachers, cafeteria workers, janitors, and other kids. They all take it home with them and infect their families. Parents carry it around with them and infect co-workers, the cashiers at the grocery stores, the people who work customer service and help desks...and, yes, even the clergy of their churches, where it goes on to infect the spiritual walk of many faithful. And the infected faithful spread the infection along with their beliefs, often not even realizing it is there at all.
I realize that this may seem, to some, quite an extreme sort of example. That many would argue that telling my daughter "Not right now, honey, just let me get these bills taken care of first," would not, in fact, have such disastrous and far reaching consequences. And they are entitled to that opinion, I do not dispute that in the slightest. I am merely demonstrating how a belief in the interconnectedness of all things can lead one to feel a greater sense of personal responsibility for the part they have to play in this wondrous, divine, and sometimes quite insane symphony of life. And it does go quite a bit deeper than just the example cited above.
To take the above concept deeper, it becomes necessary to examine the nature of physical vs. spiritual reality. If you've made it this far, you already understand that I believe that everything has a spirit. What may be more difficult to understand is that I believe everything exists because it has a spirit, which makes the spiritual aspect of things actually more crucial than the mere physical existence of it all. On that level, the mere vibration of my worry affects negatively the vibrations all around me and will somehow result in a more tangible negative effect. Many faiths have similar concepts. Some would compare it to karma, others would compare it to the three-fold law, and the Christians will recognize that the bible also says in Galatians (chapter 6 verse 7) "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." It's a universal concept. It transcends any petty human arguments about religion. You don't have to believe in God in the same way to still recognize that what you put out is what you get back. This is where the deeper power of worry lies. The more you worry, the more worries you are beset with. It just grows and grows.
Worry is an admittedly difficult thing to get a handle on. People say don't worry, people try not to worry, but it keeps creeping back. And the effect of the energy when it does, to me, is very real. I don't mind if anyone disagrees with me on any of this. This isn't about what I think you should believe. This is just about what I believe. Gaining discipline over the inner self is essential in order to avoid creating discord. Inner self tends to be kind of a wild-child. Bhuddists sometimes refer to it as "monkey-mind" because it seems to be ceaselessly chattering and often wreaking havoc. I don't know what other people may call it. I only know that I experience it, believe in it, work with it (and, yes, sometimes around it), and that, to me, it is a very real thing.
Teaching myself not to worry led to a lot of exploration into many different things, not merely other faiths, but also things like cognitive behavioral therapy, examining the various methods that different people use when attempting to train their minds to behave in a new way. Unsurprisingly, I found that for myself there was a tribal custom that fit right in with my own personal established belief system, and it helped me a great deal. I offer the details here freely. They do not require anyone to believe in anything at all. It's just something interesting that I'm sharing. If you believe in God, this is a way of praying. If you don't believe in God, this is sound psychology. So it's good either way;)
They're called worry dolls. Tiny little figures a little thicker and a little shorter than a toothpick. Very primitive. As I was getting ready for bed, I'd pick out a doll and think about something I was worried about. The point was to kind of give the doll the job of worrying about this all night long so that I wouldn't have to and could get some sleep. But it's just one worry for each doll, so I'd go through a lot of them in one evening. I'd put them in a jar once they were assigned for the night and screw the lid on just to make sure the worries couldn't escape. The funny thing is, the dolls aren't really necessary at all. There's no voodoo or idolatry or anything of the sort. The dolls are just a tool for learning how to train the brain to recalibrate from discord to harmony. I have found that it is just as effective to put a worry in a small stone, and on occasion have even used the tokens from our Monopoly game;) I eventually grew to learn and understand that none of those physical objects is necessary at all. I can do the same thing just visualizing now. No jar needed. No stones. No dolls. This doesn't mean it's always easy. I'm no expert. I've just been practicing this long enough that I know that, for me, it works. But it's only half of the equation.
Gratitude, and the power that it has, are just as powerful as that of worry. When one removes the negativity of the worry, that's a good start, but failing to replace it with the positive of gratitude will just leave holes in the song. Whether one might be praying Christian prayers at bedtime or doing yoga or burning incense, there is no harm in taking a moment to feel gratitude for all that there is to be grateful for. It's not enough to just "say thanks." It's important to take the time to really feel how grateful you truly are, for each and every thing individually. To give up worry over the electric bill and fill that hole with gratitude for having electricity, for instance. To be grateful for even simple miracles like the smile of a child. To notice, even in the absolute worst of times, how very much there is to be thankful for. I personally noticed, back when I was using dolls and stones and jars, that the jar that held the worries gradually had fewer and fewer...and that the jar that had the gratitudes gradually had more and more. And that made a real difference for me.
It doesn't mean bad things don't happen to me. It doesn't mean that I don't sometimes just want to scream. But I have been working on this for several years now, and there is no way that I can deny the beneficial effect it has had. It has somehow helped me in ways I can't quite put into words. I am not constantly mindful of this, though I believe I should be. Just as I believe that there are lessons to be learned from these experiences, and that what it says to you is likely to be quite different from what it says to me.
Just to ensure that this ends on a positive and harmonious note, I will share with you a small example of things I take the time to be grateful for. My mind, my breath, my heartbeat, my love, my pain (yeah, I know, that one's tough to be grateful for, takes some real effort), my sight, my hearing, my voice, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the weather (yes, even when it sucks;), the earth, the plants, the animals, babies (especially my own), kindness, smiles, laughter, joy... as you can see, these are all things that don't even touch on things like how grateful I am to have a decent roof over my head, food in the pantry, clothes on my back, and a host of other similarly materialistic gratitudes. There is much to be grateful for, even when one seems to have nothing at all.
So, to sum it up, I believe there is power in worry. I believe there is power in gratitude. I believe these powers can be deliberately used for good. And I believe it's worth taking the time to make a difference, because making even a small difference in my own life has far-reaching consequences and might just make the world a better place;)