”So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Christian. Matthew 6:34
Those who surrender to God all selfish attachments are like the leaf of a lotus floating clean and dry in water. Sin cannot touch them. Renouncing their selfish attachments, those who follow the path of service work with body, senses, and mind for the sake of self-purification. Those whose consciousness is unified abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peace. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 5.10-12
A person who has faith and confidence in God's provision need not worry about worldly cares. For one who has deep insight into Reality, concerns about possessions and acquisitions seem ephemeral and meaningless. Hence the scriptures counsel the traveller in the spirit to avoid meaningless attachments to possessions, position, or fame. Islam. Qur'an 72.13
Don’t worry! Be happy! So sang Bobby McFerrin in the late eighties. Is it possible ever to feel that way and live in this world? Maybe so, but not for very long. There so many things causing anxiety and worry and fear during these days. Turning on television, radios, and computers will show us all the anxiety and troubles going on in today’s world. So much of it affects our own country and how we will live. We see many dictator led countries falling, countries which previously kept us secure in oil for our standard of living. (Remember when the State Department Head once called the Middle Eastern oil “our oil?”) It seems at each day we hear of a new country with crowds gathering to overthrow the dictator or the government. It’s even beginning to happen in our own country in Madison, Wisconsin and many other places!
A few days ago I received a scary invitation to invest all my money with another investor who predicts with certainty that “the huge crash” is coming, very soon! He said he correctly predicted the crash of 2008 but this one will be much worse. And so he plead, “send me your money and let me invest it in something that will keep it safe!” Okay, after I tell you about the time I swam across the Atlantic Ocean!
And so some of us worry about our country going bankrupt; will it happen soon? Will all of our retirement securities be gone? Will riots be in every city filled with angry people demanding equity?
Then of course there is the constant closing of many churches! 3000 to 3500 churches are closing each year in North America! “Will ours be next?” we ask. What has happened? What is happening to our country and to our world? Why can’t we just go back to the good old days when everybody was happy and everybody enjoyed prosperity? But when was that?
If you watch 30 minutes of evening news, you will gain a sense of anxiety that the listeners are feeling. All sorts of medications are advertised during commercial breaks to give us relief from anxiety, from upset stomach, heart attacks, strokes, and of course sexual impotency! I often say the evening news is brought to us by the pharmaceutical companies who find the anxiety produced by the news a great motivation for us to buy their products.
So how do we cope? Is there a way that we can truly live and not be constantly worrying, and unhappy? How can we in our day come to the place as the writer of Matthew said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
The remedy, I believe, starts with our identity issue. Again, it is back to the question of “Who am I? How did I get here?” If we could settle and remember our identity issue, I think it would go a long way in helping us to overcome worry and anxiety. And as I have said before, I believe our identity is in spirit and not in body. Remembering our Spirit identity, we are to be in this world but not of it. It is a world which is not our home. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) Thus it is a moment of decision, of deciding who I am and remembering. We can decide to remain in identify with bodies which are mortal, or with a Spirit Self which is immortal.
Decisions of the mind are very powerful. It will affect everything you do and respond to. We can become, however, what William Ernest Henley called “The Captain of My Soul,” or what I might say, “The Captain of My Own Mind.”
Out of the black night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.
Under the bludgeoning of chance my head is bloody but I’m about.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the horror of the shade,
and yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am master of my fate; I am captain of my soul.”
In this world, there will always be shortages. There will always be danger. There will always be death. There will always be fear, anger, and worry. But in the world of spirit, there is endless love, joy and peace. If we are identifying with spirit, we sense that we have everything within. There is no place to go, there is nothing to become, there is nothing to do, except to remember and to know that we are part of that Eternal Oneness.
Years ago in India there was a teacher named Sri Ramana Maharishi. He never left his little ashram in South India, where he taught hundreds of people who came to hear him. I visited his ashram in 1987. One day someone asked him if he would like to travel north and to see the great Himalaya Mountains, one of the seven great wonders of the world! The teacher’s reply was, “But will the experience of seeing these places surpass anything that I feel already within my soul?”
The identity with the body self, what I call the ego, will always work to erase the memory of the spirit self. The ego will always try to teach you that sacrifice will get you what you want, not an understanding of who you are. Of course, the church has used this idea for centuries. If you bring your offerings as a sacrifice, or if you engage in keeping long rules and rituals of prayer and sacrifice, you can finally earn peace. And yet it never works. Wholeness and salvation is a gift given by our birthright, by our creation as the sons and daughters of God. It’s a free gift by grace, not by any works of righteousness.
I think the church has scandalized its message by teaching people sacrifice rather than the understanding that we are all God’s children. People today, more than ever, see the futility in trying to follow church laws and rules. They can see the duplicity and contradictions in angry, power hungry, abusive leaders. They are beginning to see happiness as something they can find within their own selves. In 1901 a medical doctor named Richard Bucke published a book titled, “Cosmic Consciousness.” In that prophetic book he gave his vision for the future which included:
1. All religions known and named today will melt down.
2. Religion will not depend on traditions.
3. Religion will not be a part of life belonging to certain powers, times, or occasions.
4. Religion will not dwell in churches and meetings and forms and days.
5. Religion will govern every minute of every day of all life.
6. Churches, priests, forms, creeds, prayers, all agents, all intermediaries between the individuals and God will be permanently replaced by direct unmistakable intercourse.
I believe we continue to see this vision unfolding in our times.
In order to overcome worry, anxiety and fears, the surest way is to work on our identities. Make it your daily “religion” and walk. Make this your first priority; “Seek first the Kingdom (or realm) of God.” It is within you, it is the True You. See yourself as a body and you cannot help but feel anxiety and fear. Work on seeing yourself as a part of the Eternal Spirit, and you will experience less worry and more happiness. You will begin to realize there is no final answer here in the world of matter. Nothing is constant and everything changes. One sees the world about as gray and never black and white.
We enhance this experience in three words; reason, service, and in meditation. Reason will show there are no final answers here; it is in a constant state of endless search. Reason will show you the body cannot be permanent, or real, but is a short lived journey of consciousness in a dream of separation from our Maker. Service, or acts of kindness done without any expectation of reward for others, will enhance the awareness of eternal abundance within. In meditation, or simply sitting or walking in silence with no goal except that of silence, you can experience a deeper peace.
You might try taking a more extended retreat, or simple vacation. Make it a holiday in a more authentic sense. It’s what pilgrimages taken desire to become. You could go on a vacation where you do not need your wallet or your watch or your appointment calendar. Several years ago I took a trip with a minister into Algonquin Park, Canada. After three or four days in the middle of the park’s wilderness, the minister commented how he realized for the last few days he felt totally happy never using his watch, his wallet, or his calendar, or his telephone! He said it felt so healthy in so real, so free!
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. And do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for now. Deal with it, and let it go. Learn to worry less and be happy more. And so it is and can be.
Reflections by Rev. David Persons, February 27, 2011, in the First Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, NY.