Buddhist rule re: Worrying.

Via on Aug 31, 2009

don't worry be happy buddhism

Don’t Worry, Be Present.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

Relephant read: Pema Chodron: How to do Tonglen, a meditation practice for difficult times.

pooh worry anxiety anxious

I tweeted this casually awhile back, and it got more RTs than all my other posts combined, today. So, guess it warrants being made into a short, sweet blog post in and of itself.

The Buddhist rule re Worrying is simple: don’t.

shantideva pema chodron worrying buddhist Or, as Shantideva said more eloquently,

If it can be fixed; why worry?

If it can’t be fixed, what’s the point of worrying?

Or, more properly: “If a cure exists, why worry? If no cure exists, what use is there to worry?”


“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.” ~ Corrie ten Boom




Relephant bonus:

Advice re: Fear from those who are Fearless.

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52 Responses to “Buddhist rule re: Worrying.”

  1. Jon says:

    Hey that Buddha was a smart guy, we hear this in many of todays modern preaching. That is why it is just as valuable today as it was yesterday. What me worry – Alfred E. Newman (Mad one of my favs) Worrying is unproductive so don't waste time with it.

    • @blujayhill says:

      Has Buddhism devolved into a simple-minded feel-good denialthon? The question to some is not can but how. Can is not a resolution of a problem. Can global warming be addressed? Yes, so I guess I don't have to worry right?

      • Jessica says:

        I think the point is if it is inevitable why torment yourself with worry before it happens. If it is not inevitable do not waste time worrying, instead get busying doing whatever you can to make the change you desire. Basically quit your complaining and do something about it or chill and let it happen.

    • sam ondieki says:

      this is great enlightenment..!

    • browncow3 says:

      I don't understand this. The reason why I worry about things I can't change is that they may hurt me. Very simple. I don't worry about things that have the potential to really hurt me if I can do something about them. If I can't – I know I'm facing pain. And for me, facing pain can be a regular thing. I have to do my best to mitigate it.

  2. I think I'll tape this to my wall!

  3. […] Not to worry. Buddhist Rule Re: Worrying. […]

  4. […] Anxious? Stressed out? You got two options. […]

  5. monkeywithglasses says:

    I'm in love. Best. Post. Ever.

  6. jhon baker says:

    Always loved this teaching – nice presentation of it!

  7. warriorsaint says:

    I have this up at work. Puts is all in prospective.

  8. triangle raw foodists says:


  9. Elliott S says:

    Very much an over simplification… When I worry, its usually because I'm worrying about whether or not I'll be able to pull of the fix… Which may not be a legitimate reason to worry, but this still doesn't account for it.
    But I love it anyway!

  10. karlsaliter says:

    Pema is the balls. She could tell me whaling was ok, and I would buy it.

  11. Alan Walker says:

    The brain does not do negative commands.

    If I tell you, “Do not think of an orange elephant,” you think of an orange elephant.

    That is because the mind drops the “not” and acts on the rest.

    So, if I or someone else, including yourself, tell you, “Do not worry,” I might as well be telling you to worry.

    What is much more effective is a constructive diversion.

    Asking myself, “Can it be fixed?” or “What can I do to fix it?” begins the path to this constructive diversion.

    It leaves the mire of worry and begins the path to a more pragmatic task of problem resolution.

    • Alyosha says:

      It is possible to let go of disturbing thoughts — like patterns of neurotic worrying. In a practical sense, that is what meditation is all about. It is not necessary either that thoughts be driven out of the mind (as if the thoughts themselves were the problem). The problem is attachment to thoughts — the emotional investment that all have in certain ideas (the hope of becoming rich or successful, the desire to avoid having others think badly of us, the fear of loss, etc., etc., etc.).

      Think about it. Why don't we worry very much about the possibility that someone else has cancer? Just a little bit of loosening of attachment to ourselves as the most important thing (looking out for number one) really helps calm neurotic worries.

      And this doesn't mean that you can't take action to "fix" something. And without the worry, the action is much more likely to be based on wisdom and to be more effective.

      • sean says:

        The brain does not do negative commands.

        of course it does. "do not run in front of that bus."
        try it next time you see a bus.

        • michele says:

          "Does not do negative commands" is not entirely accurate. What the OP meant is that by instructing the mind not to think about something, you are simply drawing your mind's attention to whatever it is you aren't supposed to be thinking about — thus you cannot command your mind not to think about something (and be successful in your goal).

          Your mind certainly can process instructions not to act on something.

          • Judy Ostrander says:

            Hi my child. Mbe you should think about sharing this line of your thought on the blog Mimi talks. Help us all. I love u. Fancy chance I see you on a web post. ( ! )

      • Lisa says:

        This is really good, thanks for saying it. I think it illustrates the point of 'No self' very much.

  12. […] Buddist rule re: Worrying|ElephantJournal.com Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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  15. […] Out of ideas? Stuck? Ask for help. Be vulnerable. Don’t worry about things. Can’t think of, say, 10 ideas for your blog? Who cares. It’s just a silly […]

  16. Gool says:

    Deeply meaningful and leaves behind subtle sense of relief.

  17. jaimehall says:

    Very much an over simplification… When I worry, its usually because I'm worrying about whether or not I'll be able to pull of the fix… Which may not be a legitimate reason to worry, but this still doesn't account for it.
    But I love it anyway!
    Homeprotec gevelrenovatie en andere gevelwerken zoals schilderwerken, gevelreiniging, voegwerken en meer.

  18. Xerxes says:

    I'm the world's biggest worrier. I am taping this to my fridge, and maybe tatoo on my hand so I don't forget.

  19. […] that’s natural and okay. Suppressing anxiety makes it worse. So remember: worry is useless (read this). Prepare what you can prepare, and there’s tips below that will be updated. Beyond that, […]

  20. Joe Sparks says:

    Don’t worry about being perfect. Just be human. I agree about not worrying, but for most of us that will be very difficult. Worry comes in many forms, it is an excuse to not be responsible. We must be in full charge at all times. To assign responsibility for any difficulty to an external factor, or to another person, or to another person's irrational behavior, is itself and irrationality. There is nothing wrong with any human except the results of mistreatment. Only mistreatment makes humans into problems. Stop mistreatment and problems will be stopped.

  21. Jim Bee says:

    what a bunch of BS

  22. Valerie says:

    I love the illustration!!! The bonus video was superb :) Definitely made me forget my worries before I doze off tonight. Going to sleep with a smile.

  23. Ian Springham says:

    Reminds me o the "Worry Tree" http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/worrytree.pdf

  24. Chris Butler says:

    If you’re faced with two alternatives and either decision will bring harm to other people, then worry.

  25. dhaliusmusic says:

    great advice

  26. kev says:

    Telling someone with severe anxiety to stop worrying is like telling someone with high blood pressures to stop having high blood pressure.

    utter tosh.

  27. P Dorshin says:

    Sounds great when the world is black and white. I think most of the time the worry comes from it not being clear whether or not something can be done. And if something can be done, what the best way might be.

  28. Jamie says:

    I think that statement is very true but not nessisarily Buddhist it says in the Bible not to worry Matthew 6:34

  29. Gail says:

    Sounds like great advice for a 20 year old. Later, when life gets complex, ya might want to worry a bit. It's when you find yourself worrying in your sleep that it's gotten to be too much. Letting a problem cogitate awhile sometimes brings some more creative solutions. It's best not to tell anyone though. They'll tell you to "not worry" ;)

  30. Daniel says:

    Kind of a feel-good bromide. If you're a prisoner facing…torture or execution. You can't do anything about it, no. Are you really going to say "Oh…well shoot. I guess I won't worry about it. I remember that handy flow chart! Yay!". You may dread the pain. The agony. Will it be too much to bear? Will the waterboarding be as bad as I dread? Will the execution be drawn out and horrific? So many situations will bring about worry, and a flow chart isn't going to remove the anxiety of potential pain or suffering. Powerless in the face of trauma, the fear of the unknown, loss…..yes, ideally we can all exist in a place where we just don't feel it. But to reduce how one gets there to a flippin' flow chart is pablum.

  31. Felacia says:

    Though intellectually I agree….my anxiety doesn't let me do it very well. I worry about everything, ever …when I was a child I just thought I was a worry-wart. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized there was a reason I worried all the time. Gotta love GAD. Though, I try not to worry as much, it just doesn't work that way very well. :(

  32. Azi says:

    The question "Can you do something about it? Yes/No." is a false question, a lie, a deceiving question, a distraction that sets up ignorance … because it cannot be answered with a Yes or No.

    It can never be answered in advance. You do not have a Yes, and you do not have a No. The only possible answer is "I don't know", until AFTER you have tried a few things. The process of wondering, mulling over the possibilities, and creating new ideas, experimenting with a sense of curiosity and discovery … is called worry. It is wonder-filled and healthy, and the results are uncertain, unknown, until after we go out and explore what happens.

    The suspenseful, tense anticipation that sometimes feels uncomfortable is merely uncertainty … attachment to something that we don't know … and even that is a healthy response that helps train our senses to focus upon the problem we are studying and learning about.

    So, please DO worry, in the most curious, deliberate, and mindful ways possible, because it is a very healthy direction of attention, to fiddle, explore, and discover new things. The things that we don't know yet are most worthy to be explored, so why would we place a prejudged and simplistic Yes or No onto them beforehand? When you want a particular outcome, then explore. Pay attention and really get into it, with a very active and lively form of curiosity, healthy forms of worry.

  33. keith says:

    Worry is like a rocking chair it gives you something to do but you just don’t go anywhere!

  34. Amy E says:

    I have finally learned how to give up worrying: live in the present, without expectations. Have a Plan B, but, don't agonize about it. Be open to new opportunities. Be glad for each new day. Count your blessings. Have faith that everything will work out the way it's supposed to. This is a new experience for me. It helps having the weight of the world lifted off one's shoulders. I like it!

  35. Austin says:

    For many people worrying is much more complex than this allows. Worrying is all about uncertainty and one’s perceived ability to impact one’s problems of fears. For many people who worry this will be unhelpful and a trivialisation of the importance of stress/anxiety awareness.

  36. This is all very well in theory, or, as a Tantrika would say, as ground. On the path or in practical terms, you have the sometimes extreme tension of whether your strategy for a problem will work, whether you will be able to fix your problem or not. If this tension brings one (as is the case with me) a pulse of 150 and a sleepless night, it’s not funny & should not be dismissed.

  37. T J F says:

    Be anxious for nothing, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your request to God. Philippians 4:6

  38. elephantjournal says:

    Love those. Thank you. Never knew where that expression, "Lillies of the Field," came from.



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