Stop running from your problems

Quicksand_warningNo, it won’t be easy. I know. It is almost like a surval instinct to get outta there when life becomes too problematic. Like a deer hunted down by predators, your body starts signaling imminent doom and runs for it. Your mind, coincidently, starts running blindly in the opposite direction, in full panic mode. Problems! They can be financial, physical, mental, and even imaginary.

There is a memorable story that Eckhart Tolle is known to tell at various occasions. It is about a man (maybe even Eckhart himself!) who falls into a puddle of quicksand. Completely overcome by anxiety and panic, he swings his arms and legs in all directions, frantically turining his head this way and that in the hopes of finding… er, finding what? “What can I do? What is happening to me? Where am I? Will I die? This is bad!!” a voice yells in his head. Instead of this blind movement of body and mind, Eckhart proposes that the man should just be still. Very Still. This concerns both his body and his mind. Especially his mind! Control the breath, control the thoughts, and simply look around. What’s the problem NOW? Look at the situation and do not judge it.  “Hey, I am in a puddle of quicksand Now. That is the situation at the present moment. Now let me act on it. Alright, I see a branch. I will use it to pull myself out of this mess.”

Blindly and mindlessly ignoring – fleeing – my problems never got me anywhere. Allowing myself to get sucked into an imaginary future –  where the horrible consequences of my problems could haunt me – never did, either. Staying in the present moment and accepting my problems in a non-judgemental way did. Because then and only then did I not waste any energy on fruitless pursuits into the realms of passiveness and defeat. My energy was, instead, effortlessly directed towards an outcome – however dim it may at first have seemed. No matter. I accepted and took the first step towards problem-solving.

Anyone can do this. Have a problem? Just stay in the moment. No wandering off. I know your mind wants to be anywhere but here, Stay here, now. Accept that you have a Problem. Scary? Just stare your problem straight in the face without any judgement whatsoever. And act: take a first step towards its solution. Just one tiny step. Now look around, be still and take the next step. And the next. Acceptance and action. Like the two muscles in an antagonistic pair. Complementing each other into your mindful movement forwards.

Stop running from your problems. Face them head on. We aren’t supposed to not have problems – usually. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re almost made to stumble and fall now and again. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, accept, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. One determined, mindful step at a time.The road towards solving a problem will turn out to be at least as important as the solution itself.

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