Uncertainty is a reality of our times. And these “times” are probably going to last longer than we had hoped. As one thing piles on top of another, it is easy to be overtaken by worry about what is happening or what might happen. Or to feel overwhelmed with responsibilities. Or to feel like your life is out of control. However, in the last few weeks, I’m learning how a simple shift in thinking can help us navigate challenging times. It’s not a magic pill. Yet it is a simple practice. And it’s definitely made a difference for me.
I’ve been exploring a distinction between worry and concern. As I spend time with these two concepts and invite them to walk with me and to teach me, I’m realizing how they are different from each other. And as I work with that distinction, I notice that I’m becoming calmer inside.
To “worry” about something is to be tormented by disturbing thoughts, cares, or anxieties. Within the context of the Three Intelligences, worry tends to happen primarily in the intellect or in the head—distressing stories that easily spiral out of control, getting bigger and bigger in our imagination. Worry can quickly take over our thoughts and emotions, and even cause physical pathology. Worry can take both an emotional and physical toll on our well-being.
Yet what if we don’t have to be caught in the “worry” trap?
The word “concern” derives from the Medieval Latin concernere, meaning “with discrimination or distinguishment.” To be concerned about something is to be present with it and to be discerning in how you consider it. “Concern” invites viewing the situation from various angles in order to better understand as fully as possible what is really going on, and then intuiting the various possibilities of how things might unfold.
“Concern” invites us to shift out of the downward spiral of worry, its racing imagination, and physical manifestations, and into a clearer sense of what is real, right here, right now. It invites us to slow down for a moment and sense into the present moment (belly intelligence). As we become more grounded in the present moment, we are able to tap into the bigger-picture view (heart intelligence) to gain clarity about where to put our focus. Anchored in the belly and the heart, the head can make clearer choices about how to move forward.
“Concern” allows us to remain aware of many possibilities without becoming overwhelmed. It also allows us to be present with possibilities that we know are real, yet we don’t want to consider. “Concern” helps us be present with the realities of the situation and quietly use all of our senses to discern each next step.
From Worry to Concern—A Simple Practice
When you feel overcome with worry, find a place to be quiet for a few minutes. Step out of the fray. Then follow these five simple steps.
Put your hands on your belly and take deep breaths into the bottom of your body. If you have difficulty taking deep breaths, bend over as if you are going to touch your toes. Take several deep and full breaths. You will notice that the breath then automatically goes into the bottom of your body. Anchor this feeling, and then slowly return to an upright position. Keep breathing into your belly.
Now gently smile. Even if that seems crazy under the circumstances, do it. When you smile, endorphins flow out into your system, and within moments your system becomes calmer.
Slowly take 10 deep and full breaths. And stay with your gentle smile. With each breath, it will get easier to stay present with your situation.
After 10 slow, deep breaths, stay connected to your belly and let this gentler energy expand up into the center of your chest—into your heart. Continue with several more slow, deep breaths—belly, heart, gentle smile.
Look out at your surroundings through soft eyes. Take your time. As your whole system slows down, your awareness expands and you can more easily begin sensing a bigger picture.
Practice this simple exercise several times a day. Within a few days, you will notice that your capacity for being present with life is expanding. You will notice that you are worrying less and focusing more. As you transition from “worry” to “concern,” you will more easily find your way forward from a grounded place of stillness and peace.
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If you would like to learn more about working with the Three Intelligences within us, especially in times of uncertainty and challenge, see my March 28th blog post and 45-minute mini workshop video, “Our Three Intelligences and the Power of Choice in Troubled Times.”
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