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Problems Aren't Solved by Thinking About Them

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Here is another guest post from my wife, Gina Lake (read more on her blog at radicalhappiness.com):

When we have a problem, it tends to pop up in our mind many times a day. We worry about it and try to figure out what to do. But thinking about our problems is mostly thinking about what might happen in the future: We wonder, "What's going to happen and how will it affect me?" The trouble with these kinds of thoughts is that there are no answers to these questions-until there are-no matter how hard we think about the so-called problem. These answers and the solution to whatever problem we think we have is revealed over time, in the course of life unfolding, and this course of unfolding can't be rushed. The answers to our questions about our problems are revealed in their own time, and we have little influence on the timing of this.

The mind doesn't like the fact that we can't always know what to do immediately or how things will work out, and it pushes to know what to do and what will happen before it's possible to know this. Sometimes the mind makes up answers just to know, and then it pretends to know what to do and what will happen. That is usually how the mind approaches any problem. But problems are always resolved in time. It is the nature of life to move on and for things to change. So problems and problematic situations naturally change, often without doing anything about them but responding naturally to the situation as needed. We do what needs to be done as that presents itself.

Solutions are often discovered intuitively, as they pop into our mind: We suddenly know what we need to do about a situation. And we may wonder why we didn't see the answer sooner! But that's how it is in life: We don't know until we do. And all our protests about this and struggling to know can't change this fact. A common example is a health problem: We may live with it for years, and then suddenly we run across some information about it that gives us the solution or explanation we were looking for.

Sometimes we aren't meant to find answers to our problems. Some problem may be serving a purpose in catalyzing our growth or pointing us in a new direction. It's difficult to see this when it is happening, but often years down the road the blessing of having that experience becomes clear to us. Even if it doesn't, we can trust that our so-called problems serve us in some way, if not only to create the suffering that ultimately shows us that we were the creator of that suffering all along and didn't actually have a problem, except the problem we created by thinking about something in a particular way.

An example of this is that we may feel our relationship is problematic. We're unhappy and we don't know what to do about it. Then we discover that we are creating our own suffering and a sense of there being a problem by the demands we're making on our partner to be different, instead of just accepting him or her and allowing that person and the relationship to be the way it is.

The egoic mind comes up with all sorts of things it doesn't like, and these become problems. But is it really a problem that you don't like something? What if you decided it was okay to not like something? Or what if you decided that you didn't need to change something just because you didn't like it? That's called acceptance-you accept something you don't like just because you decide to accept it rather than focus on not liking it and making it into a problem. Or what if you decided that you liked it instead of the opposite?

Thinking about our problems doesn't help. It only makes it impossible to enjoy life as it is showing up. And if you look closely, you will also realize that without your thoughts about a situation, there is no problem. All problems are simply defined as such by the mind. What if you didn't listen to the mind's worries, fears, and perspectives on life? Living in the Now is a place of freedom from such thoughts. Life is still handled, problems are still solved, but with much more peace and joy. Life doesn't have to be so hard!

 

Gina Lake is a spiritual teacher who is devoted to helping others wake up and live in the moment through her books, counseling, and intensives. She has a master's degree in counseling psychology and over twenty years experience supporting people in their spiritual growth as an astrologer and a channel, with a focus on helping people find and fulfill their life purpose. Her books include Loving in the Moment, Radical Happiness, Embracing the Now, Anatomy of Desire, Return to Essence, What About Now? Living in the Now, and Getting Free. Her website offers information about her books and consultations, free ebooks, book excerpts, a free monthly newsletter, a blog, and audio and video recordings: http://www.radicalhappiness.com.


 

Suffering Is a Mirage

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Someone emailed me the following:

I've been at this for many years and it seems those core issues have not transformed. There is more awareness of them and space around them though. I think I'm starting to see that there is no ultimate destination or goal to reach. Awareness itself is already pure and perfect as it is, and that is what we are. So what am I doing? There is a compulsion that seems to stem from a sense of lack that compels me to feel a need to become better than I am, to grow, to evolve, to reach my highest potential. Sometimes it is veiled in spirituality, but I think it is a sense of lack, a sense of insufficiency and fear that this insufficiency will cause me to be abandoned or treated badly, or to suffer. So I'm constantly trying to avoid this being what I am for fear of paying for it in a bad way. Something tells me I have to be special to survive, or to have my needs met; something tells me I have to be better than I am and better than others. This prevents me from simply relaxing and being what I am, which is effortless. What we are is effortless being. I know this, but I'm still working my ass off to become something better!

Did you ever go through something similar? I feel a sense of hopelessness, but maybe this hopelessness is also a letting go. I realize that letting go is what is ultimately needed, but don't know how to surrender. I guess what I am is surrender itself when I am relaxed enough to see it. I'm lost. What are your impressions? How do I navigate these waters?

And here is my response:

Thanks for so clearly sharing your experience. I would suggest it is OK to be working your ass off trying to get better. There is no harm done and it is often when we have failed utterly at trying to be better, that something else moves within us. Surrender is not something you do. It is really something that happens to you.

In the meantime, you can be very curious about this whole experience of struggle and fear. The more present you are to it just the way it is, the more awareness itself can transform the experience. Again it is not something you do. Your only job is to be as present to it all as possible, and to just be with the feelings as much as you can. This does not make you better, but it does strengthen an inner muscle of awareness that can allow you to just be with the feelings as they arise without suppressing them or expressing them.

As I mentioned, the end result is a kind of failure. However, in working so hard at all of this, you also develop this inner capacity to be with experience. Then when Presence and surrender and your true nature reveal themselves, you are able to stay with that experience also. So all of the effort is not wasted, even if the results are not what you are trying to achieve.

I would add that the process itself gets easier as you go, although then life often brings an even more challenging experience. When I was a skier years ago, the better I got at skiing, the less effort it took to ski. But then I naturally started skiing on more and more difficult trails, until they became relatively effortless also. It appears all of this effort is meant to bring us to a place where we can move or just be with the least amount of effort needed. This is what frees more and more awareness within your experience, and it is awareness itself that transforms our experience. Even then, this is not necessarily a change of the content of experience, but more a change in where you experience something from. The best cure is to find out that there is no problem. If a snake bites you and you go to the doctor, the best cure is to find out the snake is not poisonous. That knowledge is the cure!

And so all of this inner suffering is only a problem when we think it is a problem. Once we no longer see suffering as problem, then it is no longer suffering. Suffering is like a mirage: when you get closer to it you see it does not exist. All of your struggle can not help but eventually bring you closer to the suffering itself, where you will start to see its nature. Then you will find yourself more and more able to rest within the difficult patterns and to see that they are just ideas, mirages in your own mind.

Letting Small Truths be Small

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Q: What I’m wanting to achieve is a continued immersion of love. I write about very positive ideas, but all the problems of the day are still in my mind. My usual state is separate from the enlightened state I’m in when I’m writing. How do I integrate these two states?

A: The big truths and the small truths of your life are all true. The difference is in how important and meaningful you take them to be. So if a small truth or problem arises in your mind, the right way to feel is contracted. That’s how you know that that idea or problem isn’t very important. That “problem” may still need to be addressed in some way, although sometimes when a truth is very small, it also means there’s nothing you need to do about it. You don’t need to integrate the small truths and the big truths; you just need to see them for what they are. They all already fit perfectly in the infinite space of your awareness.

Paradoxically, it is by allowing the small truths and recognizing their smallness that we are freed from any suffering they may cause. In fact, it is our struggle to change them or get rid of them that causes us to suffer or feel less immersed in love. In trying to change these small truths, we get temporarily stuck in them. In allowing them, our awareness is freed to move outside, or beyond, the smaller truth they contain. And it is often then that the solutions to them become obvious.

This is backwards from how we think it should work. Trying to get more of the expanded, loving feeling actually contracts us. Wanting to be expanded contracts us! This is simply because it isn’t very true that it’s better to be expanded. The ideal is to experience each moment the way it really is. A small truth should feel small because that’s how you can tell how important it is.

You can still enjoy the expanded, loving moments, of course. However, the bigger freedom is when it doesn’t matter anymore whether you’re expanded or contracted. Contracting doesn’t mean you have lost the capacity to expand; it just means that in this moment something is shaping and limiting your awareness. In allowing and embracing the full range of your awareness, you are able to respond to each moment just as it is without needing to feel any way in particular.

It turns out that this accepting, allowing way of being does actually lead to more expanded experiences. The default is for your awareness to expand and your Heart to open. By letting everything unfold just as it does, you naturally fall into this default position more often. But the expansion just happens. You never actually do it, and anything you do to try to make it happen tends to have the opposite effect.

I will add a small tip: If you find yourself struggling with a problem, the first step is to allow your struggling and the contraction it causes. That’s what then enables you to move into allowing the problem itself. You can only start with what’s happening right now, and sometimes what’s happening is that you don’t like what’s happening. In simply meeting any resistance that is here right now, you open the door for the bigger truths of love, compassion, and understanding to flow into your experiences of struggle and difficulty.

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