Let’s face it. There’s so much to worry about. Bills to be paid, children to be raised and graduated, parents to be cared for, deadlines to be met, loans to be repaid – the list can go on and on. However much you may try, you cannot but worry. Because there’s so much uncertainty around you and in your Life. But every scripture, every wise soul, every spiritual practice advises you to “Be Happy!” and to “Not Worry!”. How then do you stay free of worry?
The truth is you possibly can’t. Not at the beginning of your spiritual, inward, journey. At best you can postpone worrying.
An old story from the Buddhist scriptures shows the way to do this!
There was once an old lady who cried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a noodle vendor. On sunny days, she worried, “Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?” These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry. When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter. She thought, “Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a noodle vendor. You cannot dry noodles without the sun. Now there will be no noodles to sell. What should we do?” As a result, the old lady lived in sorrow every day. Whether sun or rain, she grieved for one of her daughters. Her neighbors had given up trying to console her and jokingly called her “the crying lady.”
One day, she met a monk. He was very curious to know why she was always crying. She explained the problem to him. The monk smiled kindly and said, “Madam! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more.”
The crying lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The monk replied, “It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but think of the younger daughter being able to dry her noodles. With such good strong sunlight, she must be able to make plenty of noodles and her business must be very good. When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper.”
The old lady saw the light. She followed the monk’s advice. Over time, she stopped grieving; instead, she was smiling every day. Soon she came to be known in her neighborhood as “the ever-smiling lady.”
That’s surely the way to live intelligently. Without doubt, even when you are on your deathbed, there will be unfinished tasks and aspirations on your plate. There will be things to do. And there will be stuff to be worried about. Worrying can become an integral part of living if you don’t change your perspective to Life! And worrying about a problem has never solved one! If it did, well, we would have no problems in the world – because isn’t everyone worrying about something or the other all the time?
I have often wondered why bars and lounges have the concept of “Happy Hours”. They offer discounts during certain times of the day or evening almost alluding that the rest of the time you are likely to have been unhappy. Flipping the paradigm, given the enormity of the crises that faces me sometimes, I have created for myself time slots in the week that I call the “Worry Hour”. With so much to worry about, and no immediate solutions often available, I find it a lot more productive to invest time and effort problem-fixing in specific spells so that the rest of the time, I am anchored and at peace with myself! Over time I have discovered that what I can fix, I always end up fixing, and what I can’t fix, stuff that I may have worried myself to death about in the past, often ends up sorting itself out anyway! And outside of my “Worry Hours” I always do only what gives me joy – engage in intellectual conversations with people I relate to, watch movies, go on long walks, read to learn something new or write my blog! Perhaps, you want to try this method too. It works very well when, like most other practices, it is done diligently! So, instead of worrying all the time and postponing happiness, why not choose to be happy and postpone worrying for a change?