We often find ourselves in difficult situations because we want things to be different than they are. We might desire a different job, or a different partner, or a different life altogether. But the reality is that things are not always going to be the way we want them to be. In fact, wanting things to be different is the very things that is getting in the way.
Have you ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, we are the source of our own problems, that we create them by wanting things to be different from how they are?
We want other people to be different; we want situations to be different; and we want ourselves to be different. Wanting someone else to be different is somehow believing that we know whats best. However, they can not be other than what they are. It is like wanting the weather to be different. The weather is what it is. We can accept it or we can complain about it and be miserable.
And yet this is what we do all the time without even knowing it. It’s like we have set ourselves up without even realising.
Can we live in a way where we, instead of always wanting things to be different, accept things as they are?
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We Create Our Own Problems By Wanting Things to be Different
We always assume that we are right. Our opinions and feelings we accept as being true, and with it our thoughts about how other people should act.
We do this without really considering how much we expect people to change so that they can meet our expectations. In a subtle way, we are saying we know better. We believe we know. And with it we believe we know what is good for them.
If we’re being truthful, our intentions are always in our own self-interests. If we truly respected others, then we would accept them for who they are and not feel entitled to tell them how to live their lives – even if it doesn’t line up with our ideals.
What right do we have to interfere in someone else’s life anyways?
The same thing goes for ourselves. Wanting to be different than what we are, is like saying to existence that we really know how we should be. But we we asked honestly – do we? Do we actually know what is best?
It’s not that we should not change. We need not resign ourselves to being stuck. Acceptance is not resignation.
It’s not wrong to want to try and better ourselves and become better people.
The problem is how we go about trying to do that.
How we normally go about trying to change
We first come up with the idea of wanting to change usually from a place of rejection. In being unsatisfied with who I am, I seek to become something different. When we want to change some part of ourselves we do so because there is a feeling that something should be different. And inherently within that movement there is a rejection of what we are.
Instead of accepting I am imperfect and move from there – I reject. The problem is that no meaningful change comes from rejection.
When you accept your imperfection, you no longer hold yourself up to some unreasonable expectation of who you think you should be. The underlying problem is that we do not accept who we are.
If we do, then where is the problem?
We do not need to reject ourselves in order to change. We do not need to get fed up with a habit in order to stop doing it. All of that movement is just violence.
The problem arises out of our non-acceptance.
Because we cannot accept the way we are, we do everything we can because we believe I am the problem – rather than the perception being the problem.
If you accept the way you are, if for a moment, in that moment all problems disappear.
Problems only exist in the mind
There is no such thing as a real problem. All problems are purely psychological problems. Which means, all of our problems exist because of the way our psychology reacts to a situation.
There are only technical situations. I need to catch a plane. I need to plan for my wedding. I need to go to that family weekend event.
All of those are merely technical situations, which become a problem because of how our mind responds to those events. It could be those events or a thousand others that may come up in your life.
The events are not the problem – how you think about it is.
If we can really examine the nature of any problem, and systematically put it down on paper exactly what the problem is, you will begin to see your whole attitude begin to shift.
When I began to experiment with this, I was blown away by how problems are only jumbled thoughts. They fire off in a hundred different ways in short bursts of energy, none of them ever really completing themselves.
There is no fluidity, no logic to the thought pattern, just a tangled mess.
If you begin to align the stuff that the mind continuously chews on, you will begin to see that it is because it is hung up on something – that there is a problem. This problem is felt as some physical discomfort – a jumbled ball of words that have coalesced around themselves.
There is no rhythm or sequence to the thought. There is no order, no rationality. And because of that, the mind spins on itself round and round.
The mind exists merely as a commentator and needs commentary to exist. The thoughts usually come in the form of opinions and judgments, all of which form the basis of a problem.
A dislike of the commentary creates a negative opinion, often coming with a feeling associated as unpleasant – becoming a problem because it is not an agreeable sensation.
The problems are then what the mind chews on. Without problems, the mind can not exist.
You have probably had the experience where you had built a problem out of thin air, only to later realize that it was never really a problem at all.
That’s because problems actually do not exist.
Now, what is the problem, really?
The mind creates problems out of thin air.
The moment we begin to see the movement of the mind that is spinning its web, is the moment we see that it’s just doing its thing. We need not get mad at the mind for doing what it does, as that only creates another problem.
When we are able to slow things down and look at the situation very directly and get a clear look at the facts of the situation, the problem dissolves.
When we are able to see a situation with clarity, we see the answer hidden in the situation itself.
This is not as easy as it sounds. We are addicted to our problems. They represent a big part of our identity and the mind will not let go easy just because you say a few words telling that it should.
But the results are immediate, you do not have to do some 10-day course to figure this out.
By looking and honestly questioning, we begin to see that life is simple when we stop fighting for things to be different from what they are.
By simply stopping and looking at what’s there, the problem dissolves. When you are able to slow the churning of the mind, by really inquiring into the issue, you will see that all thought forms dissolve. And what remains attention.
Attention is the awareness that is prior to thought. Instead of being caught in the content – we begin to see the context in which it all plays out.
In complete attentiveness, there can be no lingering issue.
You have probably unknowingly had this experience of complete attention or flow, a state that might come when you are immersed in what is in front of you. When you are passionate in what you are looking at, when there is great interest – then you are able to be attentive.
When you are aware, do things need to be different from what they are?
The answer is no.
In fact, when you are aware, you will see that everything is as it should be – even the problem. In fact, the problem will no longer be what we thought.
It is only when we are not aware that we want things to change. In awareness, there is no such thing as wanting things to be different.
If we can see that it is just the mind, some random movement, that actually has nothing to do with you, that is wanting things to be different, then we can begin to let go of those thoughts that don’t serve us.
Because let’s be honest, we have all had those thoughts, where, after we had them, we were like ‘what the f@ck was that.’ In those moments we can see very clearly that the mind has a life of its own. It does what it wants. And we do not have to live purely as the mind.
In the space of awareness, problems cannot exist. So it really comes down to a choice – do you want to hold on to your problems or do you want to be aware?
The practice then becomes one of training the mind to be attentive. To bring attention to the spaces in between our thoughts and see that there is actually nothing to hold on to. That everything is transitory and that holding on to thoughts only creates suffering.
Suffering does not come from the situation itself, but from our resistance to what is. What we resist, persists.
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Jake is a yoga and meditation teacher. He loves stream-of-consciousness writing, good coffee, and a quiet mind. Not necessarily in that order. You can find him pursuing that wherever he goes.