Even though it is fall the air is still warm in California so last night I decided to meditate outside.
As I settled into my meditation I noticed I had a visitor join me. It was a little fly that I will affectionately call Harold (I call all flies Harold – it makes them less annoying when they have a name).
I was trying very hard to stay focused on my breath but my attention kept wandering to the feeling of Harold’s many feet as he walked along my arms, then my neck and eventually on my face.
Harold was becoming annoying. But was Harold really annoying or was I just creating a problem where one didn’t exist?
The only time I got bothered by Harold was when I got caught up in the story of how Harold was interrupting my meditation. How much it bothered me to feel him walking all over me. But when I let the story go there was no problem – Harold just walked along barely perceptible to me.
You might argue if there were 1,000 Harold’s then maybe it would be a problem. But even then it wouldn’t be – I would have gone inside and finished my meditation there.
I ended up having a great meditation even with Harold along for the ride. And I also came up with a blog topic for today and that is about our problem-creating minds.
Because that’s what our minds do; they create problems.
We try desperately to arrange our lives in a way that will reduce pain and increase pleasure but instead we cause ourselves a great deal of discomfort by constantly turning life situations into problems.
It’s not the “situation” that is the problem; it’s that we take every situation and turn it into a problem.
“Situations” come in all shapes and sizes: your car breaks down, your flight’s delayed or you spill tea all over your laptop (I did that recently).
But are these things really problems? Or just life?
We know that life has it’s ups and downs and that all things mechanical breakdown at some point – we have a very rational outlook when life happens to other people but the moment it happens to ME – then there’s a problem.
Intellectually we understand this but deep down we really believe only good things should happen to us and none of the bad. And we know this because when things go wrong, we act as if the earth just started spinning in the opposite direction – alert the press – we have a problem!
The first thing to be aware of is that YOU are creating problems where they don’t exist. You are making life harder when you make problems out of situations. You are making yourself unhappy when you believe you have a problem.
One of the biggest dangers of our problem-creating minds is that there’s a very subtle narrative you tell yourself as you’re working through any problem and that is, “if I can just get this one thing settled then everything will be OK.”
What you are assuming is that the problem is an anomaly, an outlier, never to be repeated. You are also telling yourself everything is on hold until this is resolved – i.e., you cannot feel happy or at ease until this problem is resolved.
Every time you tell yourself “I just need to get this one problem solved,” you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of discontentment. Because it’s never this one problem – there’s always another one around the corner!
Things break, sometimes things don’t go our way, sometimes life is downright unfair – “how did Brad, who is a complete moron get promoted over me?”
This is the reality of life.
But instead of accepting the way things are we spend so much of our time fighting things, turning every little situation into a problem and somehow believing that if we can just fix this current problem, then everything will be alright.
And that’s why this is the real problem – your beliefs about problems aren’t in sync with reality.
You can change jobs, move across the country or find a new partner – but it won’t solve your problems. You think you left Brad behind at your old job only to find out there’s a Brad in every office – in every state!
When you start to see the pattern of how you are creating problem after problem and making yourself miserable at the same time, only then will you change.
But you have to be able to see your thoughts clearly for this to happen.
There is a mile of difference between being caught up in your thoughts and seeing your thoughts objectively.
Most people believe every thought they have is true. That’s why the moment you say you have a problem you believe it. But it’s delusional thinking and that’s what leads to so much anxiety, discontentment and tension. Who wants that?
My challenge for you is to see your problem-creating mind, the thoughts and the stories you’re telling yourself about what’s happening (usually making it sound worse than it really is).
See if you can feel the tension in your mind and your body. When you see it for yourself, that’s when you will put an end to this problem-creating mind and rid yourself of problems forever.
The reality is life is not a problem if you don’t make it one.