“If you want fear on purpose, get a future.” – Byron Katie
Have you ever noticed what you spend hours or days, or your lifetime for that matter, worrying about is never as bad when it comes to pass, as you imagined it would be?
I come from a long line of worriers. Maybe it’s genetic, maybe its cultural, who knows. I consider myself an expert on the matter. I remember being a little girl and worrying about everything, what if I got sick, what if nobody wanted to play with me, what if I died!
I managed to carry the art form of worrying into my adult life often projecting myself into situations, wondering “what if?” and having to dealing with the stress and anxiety of what I imagined was going to happen.
A few years ago I had a powerful experience that turned this all around.
I took myself on a pilgrimage to Hawaii. I was at a pivotal time in my personal growth and I was cultivating a deeper relationship with myself. I left my husband and family for two weeks and set off by myself to find Helaine.
I was registered to take a five-day workshop studying interspecies communication swimming with wild dolphins in the beautiful waters off of the Big Island. For the rest of the trip I would be on my own, with no plans exploring the magical island of Hawaii.
On one of the workshop days we were all to swim across Kealakekua Bay, which is about a mile wide. The bay is a famous dolphin hang out. The prospect of meeting up with a pod of dolphins was pretty exciting, yet I was a bit worried if I had the stamina to swim a mile. What if I got tired, what if I get left behind the group. What if I drowned?
About a quarter of the way into the swim I did get tired; and even though Hawaiian waters are warm I was getting cold. I knew there was no way I could make it across the bay so I decided I had better swim back to shore.
As I was swimming back, I realized I was swimming against the tide and it would take even more effort to get back than it took to get out. I was getting colder by the minute (weighing 110 pounds with little body fat) and I was beginning to feel signs of hypothermia. I was scared. Here was exactly what I was worried about coming true!
As I felt those first waves of fear course through my body, I knew I was in a dangerous predicament. Adrenalin began pumping and I swam with everything I had. Then, what seemed like a few seconds later an amazing calm washed over me. Suddenly, I was watching myself from the outside and curiously wondering instead of panicking if I would make it back to shore, or if I was about to die.
My body swam, knowing exactly what to do to survive. My mind was no longer a victim of fear. I was in the moment, contrary to what I had spent my lifetime worrying about; and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually quite peaceful.
What I learned from this life changing experience was two very important lessons.
1. What you worry about is never as bad as what you imagine. This goes for everything. Think about it. Have you ever had a difficult or traumatic experience and remarked to yourself afterwards that what you feared was way worse than what you actually experienced? The stories we create in our mind are ALWAYS worse than what reality delivers.
2. Worrying won’t change the outcome. Regardless of how many scenarios you torture your self with; it won’t change what’s going to happen in reality. Try asking yourself this, “Am I going to change the outcome by worrying? Or, “how could I better use my energy?” When you waste your energy worrying about what might happen in the future you rob yourself of the clarity and action you have in the present.
I finally made it back to shore, shivering, nauseous, yet changed forever. I collapsed onto the warm beach and laid there for a long time, tearfully grateful for my life.
The rest of my trip was amazing. I was able to fearlessly adventure into alone time and drink in the richness of my journey.
Now, for me, worrying is a simple reminder to come back to the present moment… and stay there!
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities.