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Articles by Margaret Wendt

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09/10/08 Worrying

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A parable


A disciple traveled for hundreds of miles with an urgent problem to discuss with a famous guru who was said to sit in a simple shrine at the top of a remote mountain.  He traveled many miles over rough country and after an exhausting journey, he finally reached the shrine. The guru was sitting in a lotus position with his eyes closed.  The disciple, waited impatiently.  Finally he could endure no longer and blurted out his problem.  “Oh Master, I have tried and tried but I can’t seem to meditate.”  The guru, roused from his own deep meditation opened one eye and looked at the disciple and asked, “Do you know how to worry?”  “Well, yes, of course”, responded the disciple, I worry all the time, and I was worried that I would never make it here; I’m worried about how I will ever get home. 


“Well,” said the guru, “if you know how to worry then you know how to meditate”.


Meditation, some would say, is attention combined with emotion focused in the present moment.  Worrying about the past and the future is clearly not a productive form of meditation but it seems to be the preoccupation with much of our culture. We have come to believe that we can protect ourselves from the mistakes of the past by insuring against them in the future. It almost never works.  Anticipating trouble usually results in trouble.


We are in very difficult times.  From one perspective, our civil society doesn’t seem to be working.  Health care is not about being healthy. The education of our citizens has declined.  Our roads and bridges are in disrepair.  There is a sense that nothing is working as it should and there is a conviction that expecting anything else is naïve.  The bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may shore up the financial markets for some period of time but all of the money that is being used will not bring any hope or sustenance to the people who are loosing their homes – or who are now increasingly walking away from them like they were just another bad investment.


There is plenty that we can all worry about; it is a meditation of sorts.  It is also a colossal waste of time and we are living in a point in time when we don’t have the time to waste.  Wanting things to be different is not a pipe dream.  Being happy rather than chasing instantaneous pleasure is not a fool’s pursuit; quite the contrary.  In all this chaos we have an opportunity and that opportunity begins with the decision not to worry, not to be afraid.


The question is “What do we want?”  If the answer is “more of the same” then we will almost certainly have a very tough time of it.  The unwinding of the financial markets is demonstrating to us again that there is no such thing as profit without underlying value – this time on a global basis.  The rear guard actions that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department are taking may slow that unwinding but it will not change the direction of what is happening.  We owe much more than we make, we make less and less and the rest of the world is loosing confidence in us.


The fact is that there are things that work in our culture and there are many people who are dedicated to making them work.  Find out who they are.  Listen to their stories rather than the unbelievable jabber of what passes for news.  As James Thurber once said, “Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.”

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It has been brought to our attention that Margaret is being portrayed as a psychic on $1.99 sites. These sites are doing so without Margaret's permission. Margaret has not claimed she is a psychic. - MW