My adult life so far looks like this:
After school, I went to Leeds university to study French
I changed to Philosophy
Then I went to London to be a photographer, which didn’t really work out
So I decided to go and live abroad for a while, and wrote to language academies in Paris, Madrid and Barcelona, about training to be an English teacher
Madrid answered first, saying, ‘you can start in 2 weeks’, so I did
I intended to move to the sea after that month’s training in Madrid
But they offered me a job in the same academy at the end of the course
Delighted, I stayed
Then I wanted to leave at the end of the first year and head for the sea again
But I met Marina (who is now my wife), so I stayed
And after a few more years teaching English I became a translator
Then started making websites
Until the one about learning Spanish turned into our job
We had a child
The Spanish website did better and better and now gives us time for other projects
Like thinking and writing about happiness and mindfulness and things like that…
And that’s how my adult life has unfolded so far from one moment to the next. How French led to Philosophy, and Philosophy led to Photography, and one month in Madrid has become 14 years. How not having a clue what to do with my life has turned into a wonderful life.
And yet, at almost any of the above stages I could have added ‘…and I worried madly about what to do next, until…’ …the next thing happened!
Almost every transition was fraught with indecision – and in particular, every seven years, by a major crisis! The transition from trying to be a photographer in London, to moving to Spain (aged 25), 7 years later from English teacher to starting to make a living from websites (aged 32), and 7 years later, only recently, from only thinking about our Spanish website business to “what else could I do now?”
Lots of worry and indecision, and big 7 year crises. But if I take them out of the story, and look at my adult life as the above list, I can see how well it has simply unfolded. There was no need for all that constant worry about ‘what to do with my life’, ‘what am I going to be’, ‘am I making the right decision’. All I had to do was move forward and see what happened next!
A French Zen Master named Thay Doji said this to me once during a meditation retreat in Spain. Detecting somehow that I was prone to hold life at arms length instead of standing upright in the present moment, he asked, “what are you afraid of?”
Remembering something he’d said, I replied parrot-fashion, “aren’t all our fears really fear of death?”
“Paaa!” he said, “You’re still young, you don’t have to think about that! Just stop worrying and let life unfold from one moment to the next!”
Ferns and grasses and trees and clouds and rivers unfold, nature unfolds without worrying about it. When my latest 7 year crisis hit, for the first time in my life I was able to sit back and think, “ah, here it is again!” and despite a reasonable share of indecision and fretting, this time I knew at last to embrace the crisis, and to wait and see, with great interest, what happens.
All I have to do is to put one foot in front of the other, acting on my intuition and interests, and life will gently unfold.
So as for the question, “How to stop worrying and let life unfold instead?” …the answer is simple:
1. Stop worrying (Embrace a crisis! Follow your interests! Take a step!)
2. Let life unfold from one moment to the next…