How to Handle Worry

Worry is something so common that we assume that it is a natural part of our lives. This is because human life is always faced with circumstances that can cause anxiety in most people. But the problem is that worry causes tension, restlessness, sleeplessness and unhappiness. It has the element of fear in it, and the fear in worry is the one that causes unhappiness. When there is no fear, then it is a concern, not a worry.

There are people who have very heavy responsibilities on their shoulders and yet they may be quite relaxed in life while solving problems that come along the way. On the other hand, there are people who easily get upset and bothered by small things, or get worried about things that they could do nothing about.

How can we minimize worry while being effective in one’s work or duties?

Through the centuries, many wise men have found effective approaches to dealing with problems without being burdened by the feeling of worry. Below is a suggested approach:

1. Be clear about what you are worried about. Sometimes people have unclear anxieties which they avoid thinking about because of the unpleasantness that arise from the thought. What is it that really bothers you? Is it because you fear you will not pass an exam? Or will lose a sale? Or that someone is sick and may die?

2. Once you are clear about what you are worried about, devote a certain period of time, like one hour, to consider the options you have in facing the problem. You may consult other people about it and ask for their opinions. Then list down the different specific options that can help solve the problem. Do you need to talk to a certain person? Do you need to write a letter? Or travel to a place? Or pay a certain amount? Or have a medical checkup?

3. When you have drawn up the possible options (even far fetched options), then identify which options are the best ones. If you have one or two options that look to be the best, then list down the things that you should do to pursue that option, and it is very important to set a timetable on when you will do those things. Such a timetable is essential, because a plan without a timetable is not a plan, but just a wish.

4. Be aware of your own inner fears and hesitations in carrying out your top options. When you are sure that they are the best options, then carry them out despite your fears and hesitations.

5. Do your best in carrying out your options. Make sure that you are really doing your best and not just justifying your inaction.

6. After you have done your best, and still fail, then accept the consequences. Annie Besant, the famous theosophist, once wrote that “What is beyond my best is no longer my duty.” This is a truth. Even if the world is going to be annihilated and you cannot do anything about it, then simply accept it. But note that you should not give up easily. Persevere if the goal is important.

There is another habit that you can adopt in order to remove daily worries in your mind: it is to write down a daily list of things-to-do.

Everyday, write down the things that you need to do the next day, whether they are big things or small things. Use a notebook or your smart phone to list them. Then on the next day, check your list first thing in the morning and do the tasks one by one until they are completed. If for some reason something in your list could not be done (such as not being able to meet a person) then reschedule it to another day.

You will notice that once you have finished doing your things-to-do list, your mind becomes free from worry on that day and you can do a lot of other new and creative things.

Effects of Words and Thoughts

A Japanese scientist, Dr. Masao Emoto, found that words and thoughts can affect the molecular structure of water. His findings led to other experiments on organic matters which have important implications in the way we should live our lives.

Dr. Emoto put water in test tubes and put different labels on them, such as “I love you,” or “I’ll kill you.” Then he froze the water in minus 25 degrees centigrade freezers. The results were startling. The test tubes with positive labels such as “I love you” formed into ice crystals which had hexagonal shapes like beautiful snow flakes. On the other hand, the test tubes with negative words looked like mud. This experiment was repeated thousands of times with similar results.

IMG_2721

Many people then experimented not with water but with living things, such as fruits or cooked rice. I did it myself. I put two bunches of cooked rice into two clean and dry bottles and sealed them tight. On the first one I put the label “Beautiful” while on the other one I wrote “Ugly.” I kept it on our bedroom shelf and I forgot about it for an entire week. Then I when I was looking for a book, I accidentally saw the bottles. I took them down, and saw that in the “Beautiful” bottle, the rice was still the same white clump of rice, but in the “Ugly” bottle, the rice was already half black with mold. After another week, the rice in “Ugly” bottle was almost all black, but the one in the “Beautiful” bottle was still entirely white although it had become pasty. I kept these bottles for a year, and the rice in the “Beautiful” bottle remained white, while the one in the “Ugly” became entirely black.

C6D69D71-F6D0-4516-9B8E-8F5F29028A9F

I asked students in our school, Golden Link College, to do the same experiment, and they got the same results.

Many years ago, I showed the photo of these bottles during a lecture in Davao, and a young man from Leyte saw it and repeated the experiment but with a twist. He put the label called “Gwapo” or handsome/beautiful, but he sent negative, angry and violent thoughts to it. The other bottle he labeled “Pangit” or ugly, but sent loving, kind and peaceful thoughts. What was the result?

After six months, he happened to be the speaker in a conference in Leyte where I attended. He spoke about his experiment and brought the bottles. The rice in the bottle with “ugly” label was still white. But the one with “beautiful” label was entirely black.

5FA61C77-8617-4BC1-B32F-37AA3DC9CE13

What does this tell us?

Words and thoughts have powerful effects not only on water but on organic matter, such as rice and fruits. It means that when we constantly think positive thoughts within ourselves, we are affecting not just our feelings but our entire body and our health. A baby’s body is 78% water, while adults have 60%. When we are angry or hateful we are harming ourselves and perhaps people around us.

An American woman was breastfeeding her baby at home when her husband came and talked with her. After a while they started to argue. They became angry and started to shout at each other. They quarreled intensely and the husband walked out and banged the door. The wife felt very furious and bitter. All the while, she was breastfeeding her baby. That evening, the baby turned blue and died.

The mother, while in a state of intense anger, probably produced toxins within her body that went into the milk that the baby was drinking. The baby could not take it.

So we ask ourselves: In our home, do we give negative labels to our children, like “you are lazy,” “irresponsible,” “liar,” etc.? We should realize that those negative words are affecting our children more than we realize. On the other hand, whenever we constantly use positive words towards them, then something is happening to them that nurtures wholesome growth and health.

Whenever we get angry, then, let us remember the experiments of Dr. Emoto. Let us change the way we treat ourselves and people around us. Make the world a better place by thinking and saying positive and affirming words.

The Power of Habits

Our destiny in our life is controlled by our habits in a very major way. Unless we master our own habits, they will control our lives.

Let us take health as an example. People get healthy or sick by the health habits that they have developed. The moment health breaks down, then practically everything stops. One may resign from work, no longer be able to travel, and dreams and ambitions can no longer be pursued. If they smoke, eat a lot of meat, drink liquor, sleep late, don’t exercise, etc., all of which are habits, what will they expect after the age of 40? I know of people who are already taking heart maintenance medicine at 40 years old, or has high sugar level, kidney problem, etc. All these are largely preventable. How? By forming the right health habits early in life.

Let us take happiness as another example. Some people have grown up developing the habit of being angry when there are problems. A few people don’t have that habit. What is the effect? Those prone to anger will have problems in their family life, work relationship and their state of happiness or unhappiness. Some are in prison right now for acts they did during moments of rage. They know that they want to be happy. Yet they cannot help but be overcome by the habit of anger. The older we are, the more difficult to change our habits.

But the good news is that habits can be changed. How can we do so?

We must be clear first about the kind of life that we would like to live. Do we wish to be loving towards our family and other people? Is this really important to us? Then make a decision that we will practice daily habits of being kind or using positive words when we interact with members of our family or co-workers. In this example of one’s goal, here are suggested steps:

1. Decide on behaviors that you will do every day, such as smiling, saying thank you, saying neutral or positive words at least 95% of the time.

2. Create a powerful leverage so that you will be motivated to develop this habit. For example, (a) tell your wife or husband about your decision, and ask him or her to give you feedback if you are not being kind and positive. Ask them to remind you. (b) Visualize yourself constantly being positive, smiling and cheerful. It may feel awkward at the beginning. But remember that you are battling a negative habit that had been formed for 10, 20 or 30 years. (c) List down the advantages if you are successful in becoming a cheerful and positive person. Then make another list of consequences if you continue to be prone to anger, resentment or being critical. This will encourage you to persevere even if there is difficulty.

3. Give it at least three weeks of constant practice. Do it every day. When the behavior is repeated for three straight weeks, you will notice a change. You no longer need to exert effort in order to be positive and cheerful. The habit has taken over and your spontaneous behavior has changed. But it must be sustained consciously even after it has become a habit.

4. Then choose another set of habits that you would like to develop in yourself, such as exercising everyday, stopping smoking, reading books regularly, etc. Do such habit development program one at a time. Make sure you succeed each time. Then you will gain confidence and your personality will become obedient to your decisions.

Remember that our body, emotions and ordinary mind are like automatons. They follow the grooves of habit — how you think, feel and act. They behave unthinkingly out of habit. They determine in a significant manner the destiny of our life. We have higher levels of consciousness beyond habits, but many people have not sufficiently developed the powers of these higher levels, and hence are more subject to the control of habits.
Take charge of your habits. You take charge of your life.

Attaining Peace

98410612-850D-4D28-ADDC-F8705C5CDD80

John was stressed. When he came home one night, he felt upset and unhappy. The children were playing and noisy, and he got irritated and shouted at them. The dinner food was not to his taste, so he snapped at his wife with critical words. The wife left the dining table and went to her room, not finishing her dinner. The next day, when John went to the office, he did not respond to greetings and got impatient with his office mate. Then late in the morning, his boss reprimanded him. He automatically shouted back. He was fired that day. He felt so angry that when he drove back home in his car, he drove so fast that he rammed his car to a vehicle in front which was slower and blocking him.
The state of harmony in John’s family, workplace and community, was being disturbed by the agitated state of John’s mind, emotions and stress. Had he been more cheerful, none of the unpleasant things around him might have happened.

There are two kinds of peace: inner peace and social peace. The first one is more important than the second one because it is inner conflict that causes outer conflict. When individuals have inner peace and harmony, then he will inevitably contribute to social peace, whether it is in his family, his company, in the community or in the world. He will not tend to commit acts of aggression, injustice, oppression or violence.

When we look at the various dimensions of social peace, we will find the same pattern. When people have fear and insecurity towards another group of people, there is a tendency to be hostile towards the other group. This hostility leads to words and actions that will only worsen the mutual hostility, such as creation of restrictive policies or barriers to trade. Untoward incidents may arise that may eventually lead to violence, conflicts and wars.

This was what happened between Pakistan and India, Israel and the Arab countries, Mexico and the United States. In Ireland, the dislike and insecurity was between Catholics and Protestants, both Christians, which led to violence and bombings between them.

How can these be prevented in the future? Through education. When children are taught to understand other groups without prejudice, whether between nations or religions, then they tend to feel more harmonious towards other groups. I have lived with families who belong to various nationalities and religions, and I find that people are more or less the same — kind, hospitable and friendly. But when they have been taught biases against other groups, then they unconsciously develop hostility.

Schools should be encouraged to teach the histories, cultures and religions of other people with an open mind. We must teach young people to become world citizens and not just citizens of a particular country. Due to ease of travel and communication, the earth has become a small place of 7 billion people, sharing the same resources, the same air and oceans and the same dangers. We must learn how to live as one family regardless of our culture and religion. But because of insecurity and mutual hostilities, countries spend so much money on weapons and defense systems instead of channeling those funds to fight hunger and poverty.

The top five countries in military budget (US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and India) spend a total of more than one trillion US dollars per year on weapons and defense systems. The United Nations estimated that it will only need US$116 billion a year, or just about ten percent of what these five countries spend for defense, to eradicate hunger in the world and even remove global poverty.

But such military buildup will continue so long as people distrust and dislike each other. We must build a world where people will no longer think in terms of national boundaries and self-interests. The example of Costa Rica is worthwhile to emulate. It has no armed forces and hence no military expenditures according to its constitutional provision in 1949. It has never been at war with any other country since then and has been one of the most stable and progressive nations in Latin America despite the fact that it is neighbor to countries that have suffered from political turbulence, high crime rate and social violence in the past half century, namely, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

We need to think of ourselves as brothers and sisters living on one earth — the only habitable globe that we know.

The Ageless Wisdom

74D42E6A-F506-4FE3-8C3D-14BA9BC60A59

There is an ageless wisdom of life. It does not belong to any single religion, philosophy, culture or tradition. It is the accumulated wisdom of sages and enlightened people throughout history. It contains an understanding of nature, human nature, society and about the self. Because it does not belong to any group, there is no dogma that is imposed upon anyone. One takes the truth that one discovers. The famous writer, Aldous Huxley, wrote of this wisdom:

“Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.” (Perennial Philosophy, p. 1)

The principles of the wisdom are available for anyone to study and apply, although parts of it are necessarily hidden from the average person. It has been validated by thousands of years of experience as well as by modern research. Unfortunately, much of it is not well-known and not being taught in schools in view of powerful prevailing religious beliefs or societal culture. It is sometimes referred to as the Perennial Philosophy, Prisca Theologia or Theosophy. Elements of it are found in mystical Christianity, Mahayana Buddhism, Sufism, Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism, etc. It covers important essential knowledge that we need in order to navigate life wisely, whether in mundane living or in the higher spiritual life. It has important impact on parenting and education as well as social and political developments.

Some people are afraid to study these things because they think it goes against their religious beliefs. This is an unfounded fear. One is free to reject any theory or proposition if it does not ring true to oneself. But if it does, then we must not be afraid to acknowledge it even if it goes contrary to something that we were taught since childhood. The object of learning is to find truth, regardless of the name or label through which we discover it.

What are important elements of this ageless wisdom that are useful for the average person?

First is a knowledge of who we are. Many people think that we are just this body, that our thoughts are the chemical or electrical byproducts of our brain, and that after death, we turn to dust and nothing else. This is almost certainly untrue, and there are evidences for it.

Second is our origin and destiny. Where did we come from and where are we going after death? Insights into this question will help explain why we are here and what we are supposed to do. But how do we know with some degree of certainty that the answer to this difficult question is true or not? We initially study about alternative doctrines or theories, weigh their reasonableness, and see if there are researches and reliable evidences regarding this matter. Is the soul created at birth as Christians believe or have we lived before in previous lives as eastern religions assert? Do we go to heaven and hell after death or are we born into a future body and face the consequences of our previous actions? This and other related questions are things we must think about deeply, because it will affect the way that we plan our lives.

Third is, after we have assessed the maps of life and believe that we have a better understanding of life’s terrain, then we now decide on what kind of a life we should live, what are the values and principles that should guide us. We clarify what will be our priorities in our lives. These will serve as our life compass. It gives us confidence in our life directions especially during times of doubt and confusion. Such an assessment will affect the way we live and the way we look at money, business or profession.

Finally, once we are clearer about how to live and what to live for, then we must answer the question: how do we carry them out in our life effectively? This is about self-mastery — the development of habits, capacities and skills that will enable us to achieve our highest values and goals.

When life is effectively guided by the above principles, then our thoughts and actions will produce consequences characterized by inner peace, happiness and meaningfulness.

Insights on Life

IMG_2400

LIFE is broad, deep and complex. We need to understand nature, human beings, society and, most of all, our own selves. We are born into a maze without a map, not knowing about its rules. The elders who are around us often teach us things that are inadequate, narrow or even downright wrong. Thus we are often misled into wrong pathways as we grow up.

I had to discover the rules of living by reading, asking and experimenting. I have found certain guidelines to be extremely helpful. They were the light posts that showed me the paths out of despondency, pessimism and even unhappiness. They are rooted in an ageless wisdom that belonged to no single culture, religion or organization. For most of my adult life, I have been guided by these time-tested principles, and I am grateful that I encountered them early in life.

The editors of a national newspaper encouraged me to write short essays about insights on living. I did, and afterwards they encouraged me to put up a blog site.  So here I am.

I would like to thank Wesley Chua for translating the essays into Chinese.