So what can we do about it?
It’s easy to see the people around us in a binary way — as either friend or enemy, good or bad, right or wrong. Our mind always looks to understand the world and reduce it to the simplest possible terms.
The mind perceives a problem (or creates one for us if a problem doesn’t exist in this moment — weird, right?) and tries to solve it. As quickly as it can.
For the mind, a problem means the world is out of order — something is wrong, there’s potential for harm. Solving the problem creates a sense of control in the mind — it re-establishes order, makes things right, saves us from harm.
Even if the problem isn’t even a problem at all.
It could just be a matter of perspective. Like when you think your husband is annoyed because of something you said, but really he’s just frustrated with life during a pandemic.
It could be a challenge. Like when you’re stressed out about taking on a new project at work when it’s really just a chance for you to push your limits.
Or it could be an opportunity for growth. A chance to experience something new and exciting. Something that will make your heart soar — move your life forward in ways that could bring you joy or peace or love, or any number of wonderful, amazing gifts.
Our lives are full of ups and downs. A loved one gets sick — and then gets better. We lose a job — only to find a new one. Some of our Medium articles hardly get read, while others touch readers in real and lasting ways. If we tried to ride high all the time, how could we ever truly appreciate all the great things and people we have in our lives? It’s only in fully experiencing the downturns, the sadness, the grief, the loss, that we understand what good luck is, what it means to be happy, to thrive.
And if we never had to strive for a goal, to push ourselves to our edges, to risk part of ourselves, what kind of life would that be?
But the mind doesn’t understand that change is good. That making it through the hard times leads to growth. That it’s necessary for our evolution. The mind is constantly in problem-solving mode, even when part of that cycle involves creating the problems to begin with.
So what’s the antidote?
Allow the mind to let go. To stop resisting. To allow life to unfold in whatever way it is unfolding now, at this moment. To accept the feelings and thoughts as they happen, rather than trying to suppress, avoid or run away from them. Or, with joyful or happy feelings and thoughts — trying to hold on to them or make them last longer.
Always being at odds with what’s going on in the moment creates conflict in our minds. Trying to resolve that conflict, to fill the gap between what is and what our minds want to experience, causes so much of our suffering.
Letting go and accepting the moment is the answer.
Spiritual teachers from around the world encourage letting go to end the suffering. Michael A. Singer talks about resistance as blocking us from participating in the energy flow of the universe. Thich Nhat Hanh advises us to focus on our breathing when we feel trapped by our emotions. Eckhart Tolle speaks of the present moment as the only way to break out of the cycle of regretting the past or fearing the future.
Compassion is also key. Looking at ourselves and everyone around us as works in progress. Realizing that we’re all doing our best, that no one is out to get us or sabotage our efforts or do many hurtful things in the name of evil or villainy.
If we try to see how much like ourselves the people around us are, it’s easier to see that they aren’t bad or wrong or our enemies.
They’re just humans, like us, trying their best to live lives that are happy and peaceful. Some people we meet are further along on their journeys, while others haven’t realized they’re even on one.
But that’s okay. We understand and have compassion for their efforts all the same. And by doing that, we break the cycle of me vs him/her/them.
Instead, all we see is us.
By Michela Pasquali