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The Worry/Hope Coin

June 3, 2010

I was thinking today about how hope and worry are two sides of the same coin, and how getting caught up in either is grasping and not being focused in the present moment. Worry is putting a negative value on the future, on something that hasn’t happened yet. You’re imagining and predicting the future will be a certain way and trying to prepare yourself for it. You cause yourself suffering when you’re spending this energy thinking negatively about what’s to come.

On the flip side, hope is a positive spin on that same future that hasn’t happened yet. If that future doesn’t happen the way you expect it to, you suffer.

But does that mean that you shouldn’t hope or find comfort in small things that provide hope, particularly during a period of sadness or despair? Or is it enough to be aware of how the hope is affecting you? Noticing that, “Hey, I got a little bit of hope in my life and it’s making me feel good right now. But I can’t cling too tightly to that hope, because it’s really just a vision of the future that may or may not happen rather than what’s here right now.”

Gil Fronsdal said something recently in a dharma talk about thinking… I’m paraphrasing but it was something like, “I spent a lot of time worrying about the future and thinking about what was going to happen and 90% of the time I was wrong. I realized, wow, Gil, you’re terrible at predicting the future.”

I think getting caught up in either the worry about the future or the hope for the future can cause problems and distract from the present moment. But maybe avoiding them isn’t the solution, but just being aware that they’re there, examining them and how they affect us, and not grasping so tightly to either.

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