What Happens When Worry Disappears?

This past weekend, I attended a retreat to complete three years of training in the ministry of spiritual direction. For this week’s entries on Still Forming, I’ll be posting reflections gleaned from the retreat that made me think of you and this space throughout the weekend.

I’ve shared in this space before that I struggle with anxiety. There was a time in my life many years ago where the anxiety I carried with me was so intense and all-consuming that I couldn’t imagine my life without it. But I remember talking with a friend during that season and feeling on the verge of a breakthrough to healing.

The truth is, healing scared me.

I didn’t know who I would be without the pain or the worry that had become like a second self to me. I looked at my friend and asked, “Who will I be if I’m not anxious all the time? Will there be anything left?” 

My friend looked at me and said, “I think you will discover all kinds of new and interesting things to think about instead.”

That has stayed with me for years.

When we aren’t preoccupied with worry or self-condemnation or anxiety or pain, the world has a chance to become more brilliant and amazing, and our hearts have a chance to engage the world in ways they were always meant to thrive. The world — and us in it — simply become more interesting.

In other words, our pain and worry and anxiety are not the most interesting things about us. 

I thought of that gem of wisdom again this weekend when encountering the Franz Kafka poem that I shared in yesterday’s post: 

You Need Not Do Anything

You need not do anything: you need not even leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You don’t even need to wait, just be still, quiet and solitary
and the world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

— Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

This poem highlights two great gifts of truth when I read it.

The first is the gift I wrote about in yesterday’s post about receiving the invitation to simply be where you are. The second is what I’m sharing here today about finding the marvelous, kaleidoscopic gifts the world has to offer once we’ve come out from under the pain and struggle and worry and judgment that so often run through our minds and cripple our days.

The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.

It has no choice.

It will roll in ecstasy at your feet. 

This happens when we are still. When the voices are silenced. When the judgments disappear. When the worries and anxieties remain at bay.

Have you ever experienced the world this way — unmasked and rolling in ecstasy at your feet? Do you want to experience it? When you allow yourself to be free of the burdens of expectation or judgment, what creative new life rises up to meet you?