With mindfulness practice we get to know the ways that our mind automatically reacts. There are often patterns around the ways we frame situations and that impact our perception and experience greatly. One of these default patterns turns our experience into problems. When our immediate reaction perceives the moments, conversations, people and even ourselves as something requiring fixing we get cut off from what is actually happening and the opportunity to respond with some choice.
Mindfulness teacher Joseph Goldstein once shared,
“Every time I decide there is a problem… I decide there isn’t one”.
Suspending the knee-jerk reaction to try to solve the issue can help us see what is actually happening, access compassion that might be really useful for the moment, and pause long enough to decide "how do I actually want to be with this?"
To be clear, a problem solving mindset is helpful and rewarded in many aspects of our lives. In specific contexts it is the needed mode of perception. Whether you are a doctor looking to relieve your patients' pain or a mechanic trying to get a car running -- problem solving, searching for solutions and mending something that appears broken is necessary and helpful.
But what happens when you get stuck in that way of responding? Do small inconveniences take up a lot of brain power and space as you focus on a solution? Do people in your life become an object of your problem solving?
Knowing your dominant default patterns of reacting is helpful and a by-product of a consistent mindfulness practice. These parts of us don’t need to be eliminated, but wouldn’t it be nice to decide how to respond to a given moment?
When we automatically perceive the moments of life as a problem, we are immediately taken out of those moments. Judgement - I wish this were different - guides our experience and clarity about what is actually happening blurs.
If I am going to try to solve a problem, in the very least I want to know that I am doing that. That’s where the mindfulness participates. Asking what is here? and how am I responding? is a valuable inquiry that you can repeat throughout a day to begin to notice your default reactions.
Try out the guided meditation "what is here if there is no problem?" inspired by Loch Kelly's inquiry around problem solving and let us know in the comments:
What is here if there is no problem?
** linked meditations can be found HERE under "From the Blog" near the bottom of the page. **