Strange, isn’t it?
How sometimes worry and anxiety overtake your mind.
You can’t help but think about all the bad things that might happen in the future.
Worst-case scenarios keep replaying themselves in your head over and over again.
And it seems like there is no escape from this unending cycle.
When that happens, you lose the ability to think and act clearly. You might even lose sleep and become anxious.
So what should you do if that happens?
Is there a simple way to counteract this tendency and calm your worried mind?
A young man fell ill and was about to die.
“I love you so much,” he said to his wife. “Promise me that if I die, you will not marry another man. If you do, I will come back as a ghost to haunt you at night.”
“I promise,” said the wife.
After he passed away, the wife held on for three months. Then she met another man, fell in love, and got engaged.
The next night, the husband’s ghost appeared to her and blamed her for not keeping the promise. He was clever too. He could describe every present she received from her husband and could repeat every conversation they had together. It was so disturbing that the wife couldn’t fall asleep.
Someone advised her to see a zen master who lived nearby. Desperate, she went to him and told him about the ghost.
“Such a wise ghost,” said the master. “He knows everything you do and think. The next time he visits you, make a deal with him. Tell him that he knows so much that you can hide nothing from him. If he answers one question, you will leave your fiance and remain single.
“What is the question I should ask him?” inquired the wife.
“Take a handful of soybeans and ask exactly how many beans you hold in your hand. If he can’t answer, then you’ll know that he’s just a figment of your imagination and will bother you no more.”
The next night when the ghost appeared, the wife told him that he knew everything. “Indeed,” replied the ghost. “I know you went to see that Zen master today.”
“If you know so much, tell me how many soybeans I have in this hand.”
There was no one to answer her question.
I love this zen story. It’s an important reminder that sometimes our mind is the same way.
But instead of a ghost, it’s haunted by negative thoughts. Thoughts that pretend to know everything. Thoughts that tell us how things will be.
So how do you strip them of their power?
Take a handful of soybeans. Or in other words, perform a present moment test.
Ask yourself, “What is the problem right now?”
Once you do that, you’ll immediately realize that the “ghost” is not real. The worry and anxiety are just a figment of your imagination.