Here’s what occurred to me at a one day sitting today with my beloved Zen teacher Norman Fischer. Go for 50% of the worry. It occurred to me when I thought about what I’d like to have accomplished by the age of 50 (a period of zazen can be shockingly constructive for life planning). Cut my worry by 50%. It seemed like a good way to put a quantity to this thing I wanted to change.
I used my new goal during zazen. When I caught myself thinking, I would think “half the worry,” and I would instantly relax. It was like a trigger I often use with hypnosis – a word or something I do with a client to get her to let go and relax during labor. I think of my goal: “half the worry by 50.” And of course who doesn’t want to start working on that right away. My thoughts quiet, my mind and body release a whole bunch of tension.
I’ve developed a slight phobia of tunnels in the last couple years. On the way home, as I approached the tunnel I needed to pass through out of the headlands, I felt a little panic arise and thought, “half the worry.” And there I was, relaxed and fine.
It is non-threatening to tell yourself you’re going for half the worry. No punishment for the worrying you just did. In order to meet your 50% goal, you just won’t do that right now. Not saying you can’t worry at all – just half. The thought of what might happen, how out of control I might be without my precious worry need not cause me to worry further. It’s right there available to me. Just half as much. Let’s see if my life goes on without 100% of the worry. Let’s just see.