One of the cool things about working with people is that I get to intimately hear about what is going on with them- their most vulnerable stories, if you will. And what I almost always find, no matter who the client is, what kind of issues they are having, or what kind of work I’m doing with them- they are always me, on some level.
Recently I worked with someone who was looking for “the problem.” There were other potential things we could have looked for- a variety of subtle or not-so-subtle deficiency stories. Instead she wanted to go under them, go for something a bit bigger, more encompassing. So we looked for “the problem”- would we be able to find the problem after spending a good amount of time talking about things that felt problematic to her? At first glance, how could we not find the problems if all we’d been talking about were problems?!?!?
I thought it was brilliant! Why hadn’t I thought of it myself, I thought to myself as we began. How many times a day do I have thoughts or reactions that reflect back to me even the subtle idea that there is a problem, or problems? Out of curiosity, I decided to look up the definition, because I was confused as to what a problem really was. This is what my phone told me a problem is: 1- any question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty. 2. A question proposed for solution or discussion. 3. Mathematics.
Ok well fine. According to that definition, life in general is a problem, in that there is lots of uncertainty here.
Obviously this black and white definition isn’t most people’s understanding of what that word means. I’d say that for most people, a problem is synonymous with the idea that things should be different. I see two routes to go here: I can accept that “problem” is a neutral term just like all other concepts, and that there is nothing “wrong” with having a problem. This seems pretty easy, and yet I don’t think it will really get to the descriptive meaning implied by the word. As a more practical approach, I can look at the generally accepted meaning of the word (something should be different) and explore that. Being rather practical, I’ll opt for that at the moment.
When we believe things should be different, we are ultimately fighting with reality- we are not accepting things as they are. There is some kind of argument going on inside our heads and bodies. We are experiencing things now, and for a variety of reasons, “now” is not matching up to ideas or pictures in our heads of how it should be. An example: A tire blows on the car, and it’s a problem because we have imagined a future that does not include a blown tire. It’s a problem because our idea of being a good person does not include me being late to the appointment I have. It’s a problem because I don’t know how to change a tire and that makes me feel helpless. It’s a problem because I had a feeling that something was wrong with that tire and I didn’t listen to my intuition. Etc etc etc. Ultimately, it’s a problem because of how it makes me feel, based on my identities and based upon an imagined future, based on how I think things “should” go.
If I were to stop and strip down all those thoughts, identities, and imagined future visuals, what would I be left with? A tire that is blown. A tire that is not functional. There are millions of tires all over the world in junkyards that are no longer functional. Are they problems? Even according to the dictionary they aren’t. When we stop and look, we notice that they are pieces of rubber with holes in them. You can see where I’m going, and as we look, we can notice that in reality, there is no problem here. Only perceived issues, concerns and anxieties- that we take really seriously!
How can we not be overrun by these perceptions? How can we see through the illusions that our minds seem to focus on? It is my experience that when we stop and look/feel, reality becomes clearer. Often times, our experiences trigger some core identity issues that are trying to get worked out. As they are challenged, sometimes immense or subtle discomfort and upheaval is experienced, including emotions such as fear or sadness or anger. I think there is a belief that emotions themselves are a problem. When I looked at this for myself the other day, I clearly saw that fear, sadness or anger were not problems, they were simply sensations. But how often in our minds do we equate emotions with problems? I’d say quite a bit! Otherwise people would be more willing to sit with their raw emotions and sensations. When I take the time to inquire into my experiences, I am able to see the issues for what they are. When I felt into the body- into the visceral fear, sadness and anger, the sense of there being any kind of problem dissolved.
What really is a problem? When we slow down, and sit with our life happenings- when we directly check out our thoughts about what is happening now, and when we examine the images that flash up and directly look at them, we can often see that our thoughts and the images flashing do not point to reality. And when we sit with the underlying tightness in our bellies, with the aches in our heart, with the panic in our chests, we can slowly begin to experience not problems, but energy. We can inquire into that energy to find out what other beliefs ARE present- what other thoughts or images are lingering there that are taking us out of our experience of now? And when we see through those concepts and perceptions, we find ourselves back to the raw energy, which never really says anything, but just is. Freedom, being with what is.
By the way, the client I mentioned in the beginning? After looking and feeling, she couldn’t find problems, anywhere. But don’t take my word for it. Don’t bypass what feels real for you. If you find a problem, explore everything that is arising, and don’t skip over an ounce- take a look at everything that pops up for you.
Ready to try this out for yourself? If this sounds confusing, daunting, or impossible, send me an email. Let’s chat.