Life is not a problem to be solved,
but a reality to be experienced.
Life is often approached or seen as one big problem or series of problems to deal with or solve. All the "buckets" in your life:-relationship, work, family, health to name a few- may seem to contain their own unique problems that require solutions. Complaints abound as life feels like an unfair series of exhausting challenges, a puzzle that is difficult or impossible to solve.
Is problem-solving mode your default approach to life? Is that really all there is to life?
This reminds me of the saying about stopping to smell the roses. So often you may not see the roses, let alone stop to smell them, as you focus on problems that urgently need to be solved. This is not to say that there are not problems or difficult circumstances in life.
Yet, if the focus is on what isn't working or what needs to be improved, there is very little emotional, mental and physical space for experiencing whatever is happening in your life. There is always a judgement going on about whether it is good or bad, whether it is moving you forward or not. Life becomes like a mathematical that has an answer, if only you can find it.
How would it be to be open to the experience of whatever is happening, beginning with an experience of the sun (or wind and coolness) on your skin, the birds singing, the beauty of the flowers and trees that are everywhere? What would it be like to be curious about your thoughts and feelings, to notice them without judgement or urgency. What would it be like to feel the sensations in your body with interest and curiosity whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable? Can you imagine how this way of experiencing life ( even if only for brief moments at first) is truly precious and might mitigate the view of life as a problem to be solved?
The wind does not break
a tree that bends.
~ African Proverb
Challenges and change are a consistent part of life. Throughout each individual lifespan, everyone will face challenges in at least several realms: physical or mental health, employment, family, relationships, housing and financial to name some major ones. Life isn't about avoiding these challenges per se, but more about how to approach and deal with them, learning to respond more than react.
If fear and anxiety are your default way of facing challenges and change, the defenses you developed to protect yourself will tend to be rigid or controlled. This makes it difficult to bend and sway in the wind or the storm; instead it may feel like you will snap in two, as you may have learned to brace yourself against the wind rather than being flexible and bending with it.
When you are able to accept and face a challenge and not be overwhelmed by fear, your defenses will not be as rigid. This will allow you more ease and space to go with whatever you are facing, to creatively bend with the figurative wind or storm, finding ways to be flexible and graceful in the face of a howling wind that feels threatening to your life or survival.
Where in your life right now could you use more flexibility in facing a situation that may be troubling or threatening? Can you imagine how you might soften your stance and bend or sway, going with the challenge rather than resisting it?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley