“If we can really understand the problem, the answer will come out of it.” ~ J. Krishnamurti
So often we look at problems and answers as two separate entities, as if they have their own independent existence. I’ve been thinking about this recently with an education program I’m working on. I have specific problem I’d like to solve, and a specific need I’d like to meet. Reading this quote today I realized that I’ve approached the challenge backwards – I’ve been so focused on finding a solution that I haven’t spent enough time with the problem and all its layers and complexities.
Living with problems can be uncomfortable, so our desire to jump to a solution as quickly as possible is only natural. I’ve been practicing yoga for 9 years and one of the practice’s central tenants is learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve found that the best way for me to achieve this is to focus on my breath rather than on the part of my body that might be uncomfortable in a pose. I apply this in other areas of my life as well – sitting in an uncomfortable meeting, standing in a hot, crowded subway, coping with a bad headache or other illness – I just keep focusing on my breath. It helps.
Another, less conventional practice that I am experimenting with is giving problems a physical structure. Meditation does not come easily to me. I like being active so sitting still and concentrating is some times a lot to ask of myself. I do notice that when I’m able to do it, it has great benefits. So I keep trying. Meditation is particularly helpful when I am trying to sort through a problem, though most of the problems I handle are abstract, without structure. During my meditation I imagine how the problems move around in the world, how they impact the places and people they effect, and then consider ways in which those effects can be countered. It’s complicated, and again not a natural method of dealing with problems, though I find this process helps me sit with problems that need my attention.
There’s no silver bullet here. Having problems and challenges is an uncomfortable condition, and will always be. What we can do is make slow and steady progress to ease the discomfort. And in that purposeful progress forward, it’s my hope that we will find the long-term solutions we seek to remove all our challenges.