“How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.”- Thomas Jefferson
Life is full of problems.
Or so it would appear.
Bills to pay, mouths to feed, politics in the office, family feuds, health issues, the sorry state of the world… an endless sorrow-go-round of issues to contend with.
No sooner have you overcome one hurdle when life slaps you with the next one.
Problems appear to be an inescapable part of life.
But, perhaps there’s more to the story?
Here’s a question to ask yourself:
Do you have any problems right now? In this very moment?
Or are you perhaps like the guy on the long-distance train who spends the entire journey carrying his heavy suitcases on his head rather than putting them down on the floor beside him?
Your life situation may be full of problems — most life situations are — but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem right now? —Eckhart Tolle
If you take a closer look at the list of problems above, you’ll see that, unless you are being chased by a lion in this very moment, your problems exist only in your mind—
Situations arise all the time —some pleasant, some challenging—but it is the mind that dwells on them and labels them as problems.
When an antelope is being chased by a lion, does it see it as a problem—or as a situation to be dealt with in the moment?
It doesn’t spend its days contemplating the narrow escape it had yesterday or worrying about the possibility of being hunted tomorrow.
In life there are only situations. Problems are the domain of the human mind.
The real problem is not being present—spending our days lost in past and future thoughts—ruminating on what happened yesterday and anticipating tomorrow’s troubles.
What happens to your problems when you are present?
Here’s an exercise to try. You may prefer to listen to the audio version below.
Think of a difficulty that’s current in your life. It could be a small issue that’s troubling you. Or something more significant perhaps?
Spend a few moments thinking about it and connecting with any feelings or emotions your problem stirs up.
1. Now gently shift your attention to the rhythm of your breathing. Notice the physical sensation of the cool air as it passes through your nostrils on the in and out breath.
2. Become aware of the sensation of your belly rising and falling with the movement of the breath.
3. Feel the weight of your body being resting on the chair.
4. Feel the cool air against your skin, the sensation of your feet touching the ground.
5. Tune into any feeling of warmth in the palms of your hands. If you pay close enough attention, you may even feel the tingling of the life energy moving through your hands or other parts of your body?
6. Be aware any sounds that are present around you—the ticking clock in the room, the birds singing outside, the sound of traffic in the distance.
7. Take a moment to fully engage with the experience of being present right here, right now.
8. Notice that NOW is happening.
What happens to your problem when you are fully engaged in the present moment?
Is it still there or does it on;y exist when you’re thinking about it?
Click to play audio.
There Are No Problems In The Present Moment
Let’s say you’re preparing the guest room for the upcoming visit of your husband’s family. You mind is going round in circles thinking about how tense and agitated you always feel around your mother-in-law.
She hasn’t even arrived yet but, in your head, you’re dreading it.
Suddenly, you smash your big toe on the leg of the bed and howl out in pain.
What happens to the ‘problem’ with your mother-in-law? Is it still on your mind as you rake through the drawer for a band-aid to apply to your bleeding toe?
Did it ever exist anywhere other than in your head?
How many of your problems are directly related to what is going on in this moment?
And how many of them are created through the habit of regurgitating the past or anticipating the future? (based on past experience).
Being Present: Reining In the Wandering Mind
Cultivating the habit of being present in each moment can massively reduce the level of mind-created stress we create for ourselves through dwelling on our problems.
Breaking the habit of unconscious problem making takes some discipline but is not so difficult with a little practice. The main thing is be aware you’re doing it—to notice the tendency to become absorbed in past or future thoughts and to consciously bring the attention back to the present moment.
Ask yourself the question: “Is there any problem right here, right now?”
And even if there is (which is seldom the case) enquire, “Can I reframe this and look upon it as a situation rather than a problem?
Or ask yourself, “Do I know for sure that this imagined negative outcome will happen?” You’ll be surprised how often the answer is no.
Problems only arise when we judge what is happening as being ‘wrong’ rather than accepting them as a natural part of the ebb and flow of life. Problems are situations resisted.
“Let it be whatever it is. Give up trying to manipulate. This is freedom.- Mooji
Be Fully Present With Whatever You’re Doing In the Moment
Mindfulness is a wonderful tool for helping us be more present in our lives. The less your mind strays into past and future, the less troubles you will have… and the richer your life will become.
And the more present you are in your life, the more calmly and efficiently you’ll be able to deal with the difficulties that do arise.
Whatever you find yourself doing throughout the day, give it your full attention.
If you are sweeping the floor, do it better than anyone has ever done it before.
Notice the tendency for the mind to stray into past and future—to create problems where none exist. And keep coming back to the task at hand. Allowing the mind to wander is a habit that can be broken with practice.
Keep bringing your attention back to what’s in front of you right now.
Discover whether you have any problems when your attention is fixed on this moment alone.
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