Just Part of the Equipment
April 17, 2012 by
Categories: Acceptance

I worry. I’m really good at it. You give me a topic, and I can name a dozen ways to worry about it. Money. Work. Family. Pets. Children. Past mistakes. Worrying is called a lot of things, such as stress, anxiety, butterflies, jitters, and so on. The reality is that worry is everywhere, and I contribute a lot of it.

Anxiety can impact us in many different ways. It can affect our emotions, causing us to feel concerned, afraid, fearful, pressured, or motivated. Our mind may be filled with racing thoughts, self-doubt, avoidance, or misinterpretations. Anxiety even hijacks our bodies, by making us experience shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, rapid heart rate, or exhaustion.

Unfortunately for many of us, we see this anxiety as something bad – a reason to berate ourselves. “Why do I worry so much? Why can’t I just calm down? Why am I always freaking out?”

Luckily, I stumbled upon an episode of On Being which aired on NPR a few weeks ago that featured an interview with Sylvia Boorstein. She is a psychotherapist and a meditation teacher along with being a wife, mother, and grandmother. In prelude to a chat about the importance of nurturing children, she offered an extra bit of wisdom that related to anxiety.


She explained that people respond to challenges in a variety of ways. For her, anxiety or fretting is simply “a genetic glitch of neurology.” She continued to explain that the Buddha taught that each person responds to challenges in one of five ways.

Some people fret or worry, as we recently discussed. Others get angry, which can be seen as yelling, hitting things, or blaming others. Some lose heart and energy, and they don’t know what to do with themselves. People also blame themselves, thinking they didn’t do things right and that they always mess things up. Finally, others need to be sensually soothed, through calming sounds, comforting foods, or a gentle touch.

“People have different tendencies. It was very helpful for me as an adult to learn that because it completely comes without a judgment.  I don’t have to say I’m a chronic fretter. I could say, you know, when I’m challenged, fretting arises in my mind. … It’s not a moral flaw. … It came with the equipment. I’m also short and I have brown eyes.”

 So many of us think that we need to change how we think, behave, or react. However, the change you wish to see begins with acceptance. Worrying, feeling upset, or wanting to be near something soothing is a normal reaction to feeling challenged. Your heart, mind, and body are responding in order to alert you to the upcoming obstacle.

This acceptance does not mean that that there is nothing you can do. Recognizing how you respond to stress is an importance step in determining what is helpful and what is not. If we know that we get angry when challenged, then we can find ways to express that anger in a healthy way. If we realize that the need to be soothed is part of our equipment, then we can find ways to soothe ourselves without turning to unhealthy foods or habits.

I recognize that worrying is simply a part of who I am, no different than my clumsy demeanor and frizzy hair. When I begin to notice those signs of anxiety, I will try to avoid berating myself for worrying about it. In the end, that method only makes it worse.

What “glitch” do you berate yourself for? What piece of yourself can you accept as simply part of the equipment?

That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist


I will be co-leading a workshop combining stress management and yoga at Barefoot Works studio in Lexington, Kentucky. My fellow presenter is a dear friend and amazing yoga instructor, Laura Whitaker. The workshop will take place June 23.  It would be wonderful to meet any of you that can make it. Email me at laura@collectiveinquiry.com or click here for more details!


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4 Thoughts About Just Part of the Equipment

  • April 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm Reply

    I really like this idea… I find my worrying to be a hindrance sometimes, when I just want to relax and enjoy something. But, some of that worry is a sign that can be telling and is important not to ignore or to dismiss as just fretting. It’s built in for a reason!

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