"Problems" or "Processes"?


“Complaining is one of the ego’s favorite strategies for strengthening itself.  Every complaint is a little story the mind makes up that you completely believe in.  Whether you complain aloud or only in thought makes no difference.” – Eckhart Tolle.

Someone once asked me, who would I be without any problems.  I thought about that for a moment and my ego immediately reacted with thoughts they didn’t understand.  So I argued for my right to have problems, and I suffered.  That was twenty years ago.

Now, I chose to believe that situations are processes, not problems.  I believe they are teaching tools designed for learning.  Instead of thinking “Oh Sh%t, not this again.  Those idiots.” I focus my mind on being nonreactive.  It’s quite simple but has taken years to put into practice with consistency.  I listen with an open mind, with the intent to understand, rather than be “right” or to make them “wrong”.

Nonreaction to the ego in others can restore both minds to a state of sanity.  The ego reacts from a place of ‘need’. The need is often “Notice me.  Love me.  Recognize my value.”  When we listen with an open mind to the ‘need’ rather than perceiving the ego demand as a personal attack, we create healing.

“The ego loves to complain and feel resentful not only about other people but also about situations.  What you can do to a person, you can also do to a situation:  make it into an enemy.  The implication is always: This should not be happening; I don’t want to be here; I don’t want to be doing this; I’m being treated unfairly.  And the ego’s greatest enemy of all is, of course, the present moment ….” – Eckhart Tolle

The journey started with me becoming mindful of my own internal chatter.  There were a lot of unconscious conversations running in the background.  They were old stories and tapes that played on a feedback loop.  As such, I kept recreating the same situations in my relationships/interactions over and over.  By tuning into that chatter, I become aware how much time I wasted on negative thoughts.  Once I became aware, then I made the decision to shift my thoughts.  So I began to discipline my mind in simple ways.  I began to replace negative thoughts with questions: “Does this thought bring me joy?  What purpose does this thought serve?  What if I changed this thought?”

In this simple way, hundreds of times throughout the day, my thinking began to shift.  I replaced old thoughts with “isn’t it interesting my mind goes here”.  Let’s return to the present moment.  Let’s recognize what we have to be joyful for; food, shelter, love….

I started to recognize that my thoughts led to my actions, and reactions. That my reaction, and actions, revealed my true intent.  If I say I want joy in my life, but the moment the phone rings I think “here is another problem” and then become reactive, then I reveal my true intent.  My true intent, in that moment, is to fuel my ego’s sense of self importance as the person needed to solve these problems.  Fascinating really when we recognize these patterns.  I may ask myself “what is the need here?”  Maybe I am feeling a need to have value?  Will my need to feel valued, be fed by, being identified as, the ‘problem solver’?  No.  That does not work.  So how can I feel valued?

By recognizing that my value exists in the space behind my thoughts.  My value comes from being not doing. Being alert and present now.  

I have shifted my thoughts to, how can I bring joy to myself and those around me?  What does that look like?  What reaction would I display if my goal was to be joyful?  Would I be a thoughtful listener.  Would I practice patience here?  Would I just listen and allow the person space to discharge their cry for help?  If I believe an attack is always a cry for help, then how can I help in this situation?

Sometimes, it’s as simple as recognizing a person wants to suffer. As insane as that sounds it may be true.  They have no plan to change.  I can listen with intent.  I can step away as quickly as possible recognizing their true need is to draw another ego into their little story.  In this way, I don’t identify with my need to be the ‘problem solver’ and therefore there is no problem.  I just accept what is and move forward with my own agenda to be joyful and share that joy with those who are open to receiving it.

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” – Eckhart Tolle.

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