SuttaCentral

Advice on Mindfulness versus Worrying About the Future


#1

I am wondering if the kind folk here have any advice on readings or meditation practices that can help me with my mindfulness and releasing my attachments involving worrying about the future. One of my hindrances is that I constantly worry about things I have to do in the future.

By way of contrast, a couple of days ago, in the afternoon, all of a sudden I started feeling light-headed and within fifteen minutes I was face down on the floor. For about two hours I was virtually immobile. I’m not sure if it was low blood sugar or perhaps exposure to the flu which prompted an immune response, but I was really out of it for a couple of hours.

In those two hours, although I felt really ill, I experienced a kind of meditative state in which the only thing that mattered was my shallow breathing. I did not think about anything. The only thing I experienced was my breath. In a weird sort of way it was incredibly liberating. All my worrying about the future disappeared. All my attachments were released. As sick as I felt, living moment to moment with only with each breath mattering was almost like a total release from everything else.

Now then, obviously I can’t induce illness just to experience freedom from suffering. So the question is, are there suttas or recommendations for meditative practice that can help me achieve the sort of mindfulness I experienced while face down on the floor for two hours without deliberately making myself physically ill? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


#2

Firstly, I hope you are feeling better now.

I think one answer is simply to be more mindful (cf. the framework of MN10).

When we’re aware that the heart is troubled with worries then that can become our object of investigation: we can observe the arising and passing of thoughts (without concerning ourselves too much with their content); we can observe the feeling-tone of the experience (pleasant/painful/neither pleasant for painful); we can observe any physical sensations that arise and pass (knots in our stomach, tension in the shoulders etc). We can observe aversion and craving; we can observe how suffering arises and also how it ceases.

Consider your worries as precious gifts giving you the opportunity to cultivate liberating wisdom!


#3

Thank you. I just read this and it is indeed helpful. And, yes, I am feeling better. One of the odd thing about the two hours in which I was gripped by a feeling of utter helplessness from what felt like some extreme medical disorder was that I have subsequently been able to contemplate bodily and mental conditions with greater insight. The sutta you recommended is a good one for aiding this.


#4

Thanks for sharing your experience for which I can relate to.
Please look after your health first.


#5

:pray:


#6

I am sorry to hear about your problems and I wish you to get better.
When I have a problem with worries about the future I use the death meditation. There is a technic I learned from Ajahn Achalo when you start with reflecting on dying in 20 years time, then 10, 5, one year, month, a day, an hour…
It brings for me all things in the right context and grounds my mindfullness in the present.
Please see Mindfullness of death AN 6.19, 6.20

I often follow with a compassion meditation to remind myself that there are always a lot of beings suffering much more which leads to meditation on Gratitude. That brings me to the greatful mindfulness of present.

Much metta


#7

Much appreciated. Thank you very much :pray:


#8

I suffer from chronic anxiety, and at times it is still a problem. However I’ve found that practising satipatthana ( mindfulness ) combined with metta bhavana ( loving kindness ) is very helpful.

See here for example from MN10:
“When they have restlessness and remorse in them, they understand: ‘I have restlessness and remorse in me.’ When they don’t have restlessness and remorse in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have restlessness and remorse in me.’ They understand how restlessness and remorse arise; how, when they’ve already arisen, they’re given up; and how, once they’re given up, they don’t arise again in the future.”

And here is one method for practising metta bhavana - the first stage is particularly helpful.
https://thebuddhistcentre.com/text/loving-kindness-meditation


#9

Thank you for mentioning this ‘odd state of liberation’ which I have also experienced once during a mild case of anaphylactic shock having ingested bee pollen…forgetting that I have some allergy to all things Bee related. I assume I was in the grip of some autonomic response which left me with only my breath-which is at a premium status with a condition of asthma and COPD-and the desire to live.
I am glad we both lived!
W/Metta


#10

Thank you for these resources :pray: I am learning that so much of my practice is, well, practice. Yesterday I came home from work and things seemed just fine. Then the wheels came off. My clothes dryer broke, a cord on my window blinds broke, students started sending me e-mail messages asking for feedback on work to which I had already supplied feedback. I had to draw deeply on my practice, saying to myself things such as “I am angry and frustrated. This is temporary. Everything is impermanent. Just like my medical crisis earlier in the week, this will pass. Just note it all.” I’m not saying that I approached the situation as well as I could have, but it was certainly better than if I were not drawing on my practice! One step at a time.

By the way, this forum is a huge help. Thank you to everyone who has contributed suggestions and support! :pray:


#11

Here is a nice Dhamma talk on mindfulness by Ajahn Brahmali. Simple, beautiful and very useful teachings :anjal:


#12

Thank you for this :pray:


#13

What Jarek described works for me. The contemplation of death and having gratitude for what have are antidotes to worrying about the future.

However, the content of what makes us worry is relevant in my opinion. If living a worry-free life is the correct way of practicing, then hippies would fit the criteria.

A sense of urgency is needed for the practice according to my understanding, which increases in proportion to our understanding of suffering and its causes (the human situation in general).

More generally, what is not worthy of worrying about is our pretty pity concerns.

All in my opinion.


#14

No offense but your reference made me chuckle. What’s a hippie? I am asking because I think I used to be one, and even I am not sure. :smiley:

But even if one could find a hippie, which one cannot since the last one was symbolically buried in San Francisco back in '68, one would find that ‘not worrying’ was what the show was all about indicating an undercurrent of worry about the state of humanity. And ironically, all of those folks who tried to manifest an air of disregard for materialism have done a fine job of enhancing it.

And which of our concerns are not petty in confronting our own Death?

Mucho Metta!


#15

No offense but your reference made me chuckle. What’s a hippie? I am asking because I think I used to be one, and even I am not sure. :smiley:

But even if one could find a hippie, which one cannot since the last one was symbolically buried in San Francisco back in '68, one would find that ‘not worrying’ was what the show was all about indicating an undercurrent of worry about the state of humanity. And ironically, all of those folks who tried to manifest an air of disregard for materialism have done a fine job of enhancing it.

What i was trying to convey is that worrying is not always unnecessary, and sometimes it can be a virtue. For instance, if i notice that i am acting in a harmful way, it is prudent to be worry. This is why, i was emphasizing that the content of what of what makes us worry is relevant.

And which of our concerns are not petty in confronting our own Death?

The example i provided above?
On the other hand, worrying about what i am going to eat for dinner seems to be quite petty :hamburger:


#16

I know very little , but I think worry might be categorized as a hindrance or perhaps an attachment to our fear?


#17

I think it depends on the individual practitioner, but i would say in most cases, active measures are needed rather than watching it passively.

In my view, it should be acknowledged that the vast majority of human beings do not want to worry hence they do nothing seriously about it, and probably, this is why they are worry most of the time. I would even say that those who don’t want to worry are usually the ones who have real issues to worry about.

I don’t see the practice as simply living worry-free in the moment because there is nothing to worry about. For example, would you consider the following inline with Buddhism?

When the Buddha encountered the three messengers (sickness, aging and death) he got worry, but for the right reasons in my opinion.

The Buddha said:

The monk who delights in heedfulness and looks with fear at heedlessness will not fall. He is close to Nibbana.

Those who mistake the unessential to be essential and the essential to be unessential, dwelling in wrong thoughts, never arrive at the essential.

Peace :pray:


#18

One can be very active, investigate, and choose options and take action, all without the negative aspects of ‘worry’. When there is no action to be taken, either by choice or circumstance, then there is no longer any purpose to worry. :slight_smile:


#19

I hate to sound like a broken record, but i still think it depends. People perceive worry as a “negative” because it is associated with unpleasant feelings, but this can be a misleading criteria of measuring the worth of things. More often than not, humans are willing to endure unpleasant feelings as a trade off for a better future, and in many cases, this is an intelligent choice to make.

I remember Ajahn Chah once advising his disciple on what to do when their mind crave for food. His approach was punishing the mind by fasting for few days triggering fear in the mind if it craves for food in the future.

In general, i think existential anxiety is a main driving force behind the practice, and the Buddha made sure to keep it alive. Why would he then advice his disciples to contemplate death all the time even though death is based on self view?


#20

The following article by Bhikkhu Bodhi about guilt and shame (unpleasant states of mind) which are described as “the guardians of the world” can be relevant to the topic in hand

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_23.html