I’m Worried About the Future

Mar 2, 2020

QUESTION

Dear Venerable Robina,

I hope it is ok to write and ask for your help and advice at this time.  

I find that I am really struggling with my mind and that my anxiety and depression is so hard to try to shift.

In the last few years lots of things seem to have fallen away for me, my parents died, my marriage ended and I lost my job at the end of 2019. I’ve tried to use these circumstances to simplify my life in a way and am now set up in my own little home with my two children and doing a PhD which is something I have wanted to do for a long time.

I’ve been reading Pema Chodren’s books a lot about trying to accept the feeling of groundlessness and uncertainty, ironically this is also a big part of my PhD thesis which is about resilience and learning for young people in the context of climate change and uncertain futures.

I find a lot of the time I feel like I am really adrift in a sea of my own fear and anxiety. I’m afraid for what the future will bring for me and for my children, that I won’t be able to manage financially, that I will need to continue through this morass of confusion and self-doubt that will never end.

In my daily practice I am doing the nine-round breathing, visualisation of Shakyamuni Buddha and then single-pointed concentration on the breath and a little bit of mahamudra.

Thanks again for your time and I look forward to meeting you when you are next in town. Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated. 

All the best

C

 

ANSWER

Happy to hear from you, dearest C.

I understand. But you know what? I think the biggest problem you have — and it’s totally common, and ironic — is that because you’re practising you’re seeing your mind more starkly. The anxieties and fears have always been there but you haven’t paid so much attention. 

It’s going to be a while before we’ve completely subdued our mind!

This is the best time of your life — you’re free! It’s a time to open yourself up to new things, to do the things you’ve always want, such as your PhD, and so much else. I’m so happy for you.

The very nature of attachment is dissatisfaction: it just keeps on chatting away. Our trouble is these thoughts loom larger than the good ones.

So one practice is to cultivate more good ones. They’re all there in you, but they’re latent. Like I joke, all the crazy roommates — anxiety etc — make a big noise and the good roommates — your virtue, your kindness, your intelligence, your compassion, your rejoicing in all your good qualities — are sort of hiding under the bed. Bring them out! Actively speak the words of those thought.

The irony of ego is that we identify more with the anxious thoughts, etc., than the positive ones. We have to change that by consciously saying the positive thoughts. It seems almost silly, too simple, but it’s profound.

Learn to stop believing in the anxious thoughts and instead to believe the positive ones. This really is what practice is. And of course it takes time! We need to be brave, to have patience, and have long-term view.

And the fact is you have a practice, you’re doing the work. If you weren’t, that’d be a very different thing. You’re applying the antidotes, so rejoice in that and be patient with yourself.

You’re doing beautifully, you really are.

What do you think?

Much love,

Robina

 

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