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  • Writer's pictureFrank Basler

Anxious? Stop Thinking

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

A famous Zen koan asks, “Does a dog have a Buddha nature? The answer is Stop! – stop thinking.

Brother David Stendl Rast says “stop!” as well. He asks, “Do you want to be happy?” His answer is, ”Be grateful.” He boils it down to “Stop, Look, Go.” Stop what you are doing. Look around for something to be grateful for, then go back to what you were doing.[1] For example, Stop: I stopped writing this blog post just now. Look: I looked out the window and was grateful for the green leaves against the blue sky. Go: I went back to writing.

When I stop like this, I’m not thinking about the future. I’m right here now.

When we’re in the here-now present moment, it’s not possible to be anxious. Anxiety is stirred up by imagining threats in the future, and it has a seductive quality of chewing on worried ‘what-ifs’ over and over.

Anxiety is intensely self-oriented. It’s selfish, actually. I’ve been attending Fr. Robert Kennedy’s virtual zazen at 9:00 a.m. Eastern every Saturday morning.[2] During a dharma talk following a recent meditation Roshi Kennedy talked about “rocking the cradle of our own non-existence.” I love that image. It’s been with me for the last several weeks. Whenever I start worrying about something, I chuckle to myself and remember to rock the cradle of my non-existence.

The self is a product of memory and desire. It has no independent existence. When I let go of past memories and thoughts about what I want or am afraid of in the future -- when I return to the present moment, anxieties vanish.

Try it yourself. Think of something you’re worried about. Now stop and pay attention to the lines and veins on the back of your hands. Do that for a few seconds. Where did your anxiety go while you were focused on your hands?

My Zen friends would say every time we stop and return to the here-and-now, we are realizing our Buddah nature. Have you ever seen a picture of an anxious Buddah? Click on the link below to ask Google for images of an anxious Buddah.[3] You’ll see this marvelous quote:

Buddah was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?” He replied, “Nothing!

However, Buddah said, let me tell you what I lost: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity,

Fear of Old Age and Death.”

To reduce your anxieties, find a discipline that allows you to spend more and more time in the here-now present moment. Stop. Don’t think. Do what you need to do right now.

[1] [2] Password: Glenwood50. Morning Star Zendo’s website is [3]

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