How can a problem not be a problem? And be a problem for one person and not another? And a problem one day and not the next? If the situation alone was the problem, wouldn’t it always be a problem and for everyone? As this doesn’t seem to be the case, what specifically turns something into a ‘problem’ for us? Does this hold a key as to how to ‘de–problem’ situations?
So, just what does make something into a problem for us? There are two layers at play here. First is our perception. If we perceive something to be a problem for us, then it is. Secondly is the feeling that something is a problem. Have you ever noticed that, maybe even before you perceive something to be a problem, you just get the feeling of ‘problem’? This feeling usually come from our beliefs, conditioning, expectations, experiences or self-image being challenged, in some way by the situation.
To really take ‘problem’ out of the situation we need to address both the feeling that something is a problem and how we perceive the situation. Here are some example of what is meant by this.
Reframe: chasing happiness. Do you ever feel that you are chasing happiness, that happiness is something you have to go out and attain? The journey of meditation teaches us that we are the creators of our own feelings and that we can create for ourselves an inner state of happiness that is independent of external circumstances.
Reframe: ‘I’m not good enough.’ ‘It didn’t work last time.’ ‘I always mess things up.’ Do you ever think like this? Sit quietly and create new, empowering and supportive thoughts, such as: there is benefit in everything, I am fortunate, or, I am valuable. The more time we allow for ourselves to experience the truth of these types of thoughts, the more they will begin to outweigh our old way of thinking.
Reframe: Panic button! When we panic, we usually either go into fix-it overdrive or into procrastination. SOS: Stop-Observe-Steer. Stop: take a breath and re-centre yourself. Observe: look without judgement at the situation. Steer: respond appropriately. To be able to do this takes practice, and if we practise when everything is going well it will increase our stamina, we can practise by taking 10 minutes or so every day to sit in meditation and anchor ourselves in deep silence. The more we exercise our mind in this way, the easier it will be to quieten our mind in the moment of panic.
Reframe: There’s nothing I can do. For example, Traffic equals frustration equals problem. When it comes to something like rush hour traffic, what can we do? Sometimes we just have to accept things as they are. Rush hour equals traffic. There is something we can change though. We can choose to change how we perceive this time, and how we spend it. What if it was an opportunity for ‘me’ time, to listen to my favourite music, learn a new language or, maybe it could be contemplation time? Now, traffic equals opportunity equals no problem.
Reframe: Insurmountable problems. Know that there is a solution. In fact see the problem like a puzzle, the solution is there it is just that all the pieces are jumbled up. A helpful practice is to begin to allow the solution to reveal itself, as in a creative visualization. We can use this metaphorically, for example, visualise the sun hidden behind clouds, then see the clouds slowly drifting away and sun shining though.
Where there is no reframe: ask yourself, ‘What do I need to learn here?’ When we don’t seem to be able to resolve a situation it doesn’t mean we have failed. Maybe we aren’t meant to resolve it. Maybe what we need to do is to stop trying to fix it, learn from it, assimilate that wisdom and then move on.