Thinking the Worst

 My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes . . . most of which never happened.  MARK TWAIN

The human imagination is quite creative and can take us on an emotional adventure.  We imagine going into space and make it happen. We have the ability to create stories, put them on film, and engage millions to dream along with us.  Imagination unlocks the door to endless possibilities.

The problem is, sometimes we think up the worst possible scenarios for our own lives. These scenarios cause our self unnecessary worry.  The good news is, like Mark Twain suggests, most of these scenarios never come true.  Unfortunately though when we continually think the worst, it will cause us unnecessary suffering.  “What-if” questions are usually only possibilities and not reality.

Buddha has taught us that the mind is everything; what you think you become. Every moment of the day, we are faced with the choices of our own thoughts.

Being able to imagine the worst can be useful. It enables us to gather information and to make contingency plans so that we are prepared to deal with the ‘what-if’ if it does happen. However, often times, we don’t just stop there.   Instead of just laying out alternative possibilities for us to consider, our thoughts make a great drama out of the ‘what-if’.  Before we know it, we are drawn into the intensity of the scene, and the feelings are as if it is all happening now. And our body responds.  We are in it as if it is already happening.
It is natural that we do get caught up imagining the worst from time to time.  After all, we are only human. But the trick is to catch ourselves in it so that we can find our way out. Mark Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”  So how can you bring your imagination under control and make it work for you  rather than against you?

If you find yourself caught up in the what-if drama and overwhelmed with worry, take a moment to pause. Breathe. Ask yourself whether it is reality or a runaway imagination.  It’s only natural for thoughts to occur, however, you can decide how much importance you want to give them.

As Buddha said,  “Wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind.” When you come from a calm standpoint, you are more likely to respond with good sense.  The good sense will guide you to look for thoughts of reassurance and support.

On the other side of worry, there’s trust. With wisdom and a peaceful mind you can find trust in yourself.  It’s reassuring to know you have the innate wisdom and ability to get through whatever it is that is presented to you.  While we can’t always control what life will look like or be like, we can control how we respond to it.



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