Don’t Worry. Be Present.
One of the teachings of Buddha goes like this – “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
I’d like to share an extremely important, even life-changing concept I learned about 20 years ago. It’s called N.B.D.
My life partner, Lois, had an idea to celebrate a milestone birthday she was approaching. She has been on a spiritual journey ever since I first knew her as a teenager. This quest for spiritual understanding led her to attend a Buddhist retreat in Vermont with the renowned Buddhist Monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hhan. Lois was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to go with her to the retreat.
I had a decision to make. I was not on a spiritual journey at that time – that was Lois’ thing. But I calculated in my mind, “If Lois goes on this retreat without me, what will she learn and experience that I won’t? Will I be left out, or left behind?” So I decided to go along. To hedge my bets, however, I packed my golf clubs just in case I didn’t like the retreat and needed a retreat from the retreat.
You likely can guess what happened. The retreat was ideal for Lois. She got just what she needed, a greater depth of learning in her spiritual practice. But for me…it was actually life changing. Since meditation and Buddhist spiritual thought was totally new to me, the retreat opened me up completely.
Each morning of the 6-day retreat Thich Nhat Hhan led the way. It was an “intimate” affair with about 800 people attending the retreat under a tent in the hills of Vermont. As it turned out, he had me with his opening remarks. He said “don’t follow me, I’m not a guru. I’m simply a teacher. Listen and process the teachings for yourself, in your own way.” Well, that did for me. This gentle, peaceful, warm and engaging man had me – and all of us I suspect – in the palm of his hand. We all leaned forward to hear this soft-spoken teacher share his vision of peace and living in the moment.
In the afternoons, after lovely walking meditations on the beautiful grounds, Thich Nhat Hhan’s team of Monks and Nuns would meet with groups of about 40-50 of us. They helped us break down the morning teachings in these dharma groups. One day, my group had a monk who had an infectious attitude and smile lead our dharma talk. He told us to listen closely, because he wanted to share a very, very significant concept of Buddhist thought and practice. He said it is called “N.B.D.” and, if embraced and practiced, it could help us immeasurably in our life and Buddhist practice. He then taught us this crucial concept.
He explained that N.B.D. stood for No Big Deal. That was it. Most things in our life that we struggle with or worry about are simply “No Big Deal.” Wow!
It turns out this concept of N.B.D. is totally true. Much research has been done that shows that 85-90% of what we humans worry about…actually never happens. Think about that. Think about all the wasted time, energy, and emotion we expend on worrying about things that never happen. What a waste. How much more could we achieve if we converted our worry-time into more productive, focused energy? Or think of how much more we could relax, refresh, restore if we eliminated the time we spend worrying.
I learned so much at the Thich Nhat Hhan retreat about the value of meditation, the value of positive thinking and positive attitude. Other life-changing ways of being I learned at the retreat included kind speech, listening with an open heart, empathy, connection with others, living in the moment, and gratitude.
And the simplest concept of all – that most things in our lives are really N.B.D. – was an idea I have tried to embrace and practice ever since. I now bring this insight to my coaching clients, and it helps everyone. At first they laugh at the simplicity of N.B.D., as I did when I first heard it.
N.B.D. is a practice because, for most of us, we have learned to worry. We get into the angst of life. Many of us were raised to worry. We worry about the future. We worry about our past. We worry about our present. Goals, fears, needs, wants, desires, comparisons, failure, success, our health, our kids, our loved ones, our loneliness…we worry about it all. And for what?
I challenge you to make it your practice to notice when you worry and catch yourself in the midst of those anxious thoughts. Then, laugh at yourself for worrying and wasting all that time and energy. And turn it around by course-correcting and stopping the worry, converting it instead to a positive thought and attitude.
I guarantee if you practice N.B.D. and convert the worry to a positive thought about outcomes, you will bring peace and more joy into your life. As with most personal growth practice, a life coach can help you embrace N.B.D.
Its No Big Deal…try it.