What if the problem’s not the problem?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Are there really Problems? It would seem so, but is what we call a problem, REALLY a problem? Yes, there are those expected stages of life where major change occurs. Most certainly puberty, midlife crisis and menopause are among the most familiar. If you follow astrology, one’s Saturn Return, a time in your late 20’s and late 50’s when Saturn returns to the position in your astrological chart where it originated at your birth also signifies major changes.  And then there’s all the endings and new beginnings we experience throughout our lives. In new age communities, you’ll also hear people talk about going through their Dark Night of the Soul. This is a time when you visit those deep, shadowy places in your personality that can take over your psyche and often cause you to rethink your entire existence.

A lot of clients come to me during periods of personal major change. This change can be a result of one of the stages mentioned above or a change in financial status, necessitating them to reinvent themselves in the workplace  after a death of a parent or loved one making them realize that life is too short to tolerate doing what they no longer have passion for.

Change, like death and taxes, is something we can absolutely count on as long as we are still breathing. More than ever, change rears its head and frequents us on a regular basis. Whatever the circumstance, it takes courage to face the demands they make of us.

During all these stages we are, to one degree or another, knocked for a loop; we can experience what feels like an emotional roller coaster and other times a physical metamorphosis. It doesn’t really matter which, because one seems to naturally affect the other.

There is a term you may or may not be familiar with; it is called Quickening. It refers to the fact that everything, time included, seems to be moving at a much faster pace. With change as our constant companion, we no longer have the luxury of living within our comfort zone. In fact, with this quickening, comfort zones barely exist.

We don’t need a trip to the moon to experience this warp speed. We just need to think back to a week ago and find ourselves wondering where it went. So on this roller coaster ride called life, how do we create a sense of center, a way of being with ourselves that allows us to navigate life’s bumpy course and come through not just alive and well, but better for it?

First of all, we accept that we’re not always, if ever in control of outer circumstances. Even when it seems we might be, Mother Nature, if nothing else, can quickly relieve us of that illusion. Sometimes it pays to look at how you handle the small, out-of-control annoyances. The big, obvious ones are usually easy to spot. But something as simple as a crick in a hose when I’m watering the garden is enough of an example to show me how I react to the unexpected. When a crick occurs, I could just walk over to the hose, straighten it, and continue watering. Instead, I flip the hose a number of times trying to get it undone, until I get . . . .ed at it and after all else fails, walk over and straighten it. I get . . . .ed because there was an unexpected change in my plan for that hose. This is true for my computer going down, dropping something because my hands are too full, or having my cell phone cut off in the middle of a conversation. If I can’t navigate these little unwanted changes in my plans, how am I going to handle the big ones?

This past year, I embraced a simple teaching. Every time something occurred that was not exactly how I had planned, I asked myself the question, “What if this weren’t a problem?”  Not, “What if this weren’t happening?” That would be resisting reality. And even though it might be a panacea for a short period of time, eventually I’d have to deal with the reality that unwanted situations are a part of life. I had a fertile ground to work when I decided to move to Maui.

When I remembered to ask myself, “What if it weren’t a problem that my house sold and I had to move out before I was ready? What if it weren’t a problem that my car wasn’t selling?  What if it weren’t a problem that my best friend wasn’t going to be on Island when I arrived?” Each time I remembered to ask that question, I saw how by accepting every situation exactly as it was being presented, I was able to use my energy to create solutions or just accept that this time it wasn’t going to go as planned instead of getting frustrated and drained by making the change a problem. This practice became an instant destresser. Like most practices, the more I did it, the easier it became. I didn’t have to like that there was a crick in my plan, I just had to accept it and move on.

I learned that problems really don’t exist. I have to see something as a problem to make it so. By accepting the things I couldn’t change; having the courage to change the things I could; I gained more wisdom to know the difference. I guarantee you, if you take on this practice, the roller coaster of life will offer you a much smoother ride and you’ll also have more energy to enjoy it.

Published by the Maui Weekly Newspaper