iMonk Authors Week
I hope you have enjoyed, as much as I have, this week of highlighting authors who write for us here at Internet Monk. I am blessed to partner with many fine, gifted, and faithful writers, who have written books we are happy to recommend. For those of you still getting familiar with the site, you can always find some of these books listed on the right sidebar of the page, under “iMonk Authors.” The books pictured there are linked to sites where you can purchase them and support these folks in their craft.
Pictures this week are from our friend, David Cornwell. Visit his Flickr page to see more.
Today, we feature an excerpt from a new book by our dear friend and former IM administrator/writer Jeff Dunn. Without Jeff, there would be no “iMonk Authors.” He was Michael’s agent for Mere Churchianity, and was instrumental in providing opportunities for Damaris, Lisa, and me to become published writers. More than that, however, Jeff is an accomplished author of his own, who writes with grace and humor to encourage us all.
We miss him around here, but fill the gap just a little bit today with this sample from his recently released Why Worry?: A Catholic’s Guide to Learning to Let Go.
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Swimming instructors will tell you that even for advanced swimmers, learning how to float can be very difficult. Fr. Thomas Green, the author of When the Well Runs Dry, tells of living in the Philippines and trying to teach Filipinos, who grew up knowing how to swim, to float in the water. “When we do have a picnic and I try to teach these people of the sea how to float, it is puzzling to see what a difficult art floating really is—difficult not because it demands much skill, but because it demands much letting go,” writes Green. “The secret of floating is in learning not to do all the things we instinctively want to do. We want to keep ourselves rigid, ready to save ourselves the moment a big wave comes along—and yet the more rigid we are the more likely we are to be swamped by the waves; if we relax in the water we can be carried up and down by the rolling sea and never be swamped.”
Swimmers have goals; floaters allow the current to take them wherever it will.
Swimmers are in control of their actions; floaters let go of their actions.
Swimmers put forth effort to get from one place to another; floaters just, well, float.
Dr. Claire Weekes applied this idea of floating to dealing with anxiety. Weekes was an Australian doctor who helped many people learn to work through anxiety through her clinics and her books. Weekes discovered that doing things to try to reduce or eliminate worry actually makes things worse. When we try to fight anxiety, it is like throwing gasoline on a fire. And when we try to run from our anxiety, we find our anxiety can outrun us every time. So she came up with a new approach. She called it floating. Instead of running from our anxiety, or using techniques to fight it, we need to lay our head back and float through it.
When we put forth our own efforts to fight anxiety, we are actually fanning the flames of the fire we want to put out. We are calling attention to what we want to go away. Our efforts to fight anxiety actually make it worse. It is paradoxical to think that the best way to overcome worry is to just let it be, but that really is true. Do you remember those little bamboo finger tricks we had as kids? You would put one index finger in one end, and your other index finger in the other end. Now, try to take it off. Your first instinct was to pull your fingers out, right? But the harder you pulled, the tighter it became. The way to get it off was to relax your fingers and push them together—just the opposite of what we would do naturally.
Worry is the same way. The harder you pull on it, the more power you give it to bind you, to keep you ensnared in its trap. To overcome worry, you need to stop pulling. You need to stop fueling anxiety with your efforts. You need to float.
The psalmist lifts up this cry of the Lord when he writes, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10, NRSV).
Other translations put the “Be still” in more direct words.
- “Let go of your concerns” (God’s Word)
- “Stop fighting” (Good News Translation)
- “Stand silent” (Living Bible)
- “Step out of the traffic” (The Message)
- “Stop your striving” (New English Translation)
- “Be calm” (The Voice)
What all of these translations of this familiar passage have in common is a call for us to stop our efforts and trust God. Again, let’s remember the only way we can please God is by trusting him. And trusting God goes against how we think we are to act. As Fr. Green writes, “The problem is we must decide whether we want to swim or float.”