Sometimes problems can seem insurmountable; you can see sunshine over the looming summit, but it's always just out of reach. Will this snowy blizzard of bitterness ever end?
Problems are everywhere. We have problems at work, problems at home, problems with our health, problems with money, problems with happiness, and on and on.
How are we supposed to live a happy life with all these non stop problems?
We need to look a little deeper at the true nature of our problems.
There is a difference between outer and inner problems, and one thing is for certain, outer problems are never going to cease. The very nature of life is a constant juggle between good and bad, happy and sad, health and sickness.
We can't control these outer problems, but we do have control over our inner problems.
Unhappiness arises as a result of our discontent over external conditions.
There is one universal goal, one thing that all humans are striving for; no matter where you live, who you are or what you believe in; we all want to be free from suffering and we all want to be happy.
Everything that we do in life is in an attempt to fulfill these wishes. Everything. If you look closely you can tie every decision, action and motive of every living being to the fulfillment of these wishes. Our problems arise because something has come into direct conflict with this wish.
If we learn how to change the way we react to our outer problems we can control and change the effect this problem has over us. We can solve our problems.
Outer problems such as a rainy day ruining your outdoor party or catching the flu before your vacation are what we call conditions, these conditions test your peace of mind. Without these conditions your state of mind would likely remain peaceful, but coming back to the fact that there will always be more problems, we need to learn how to remain calm amidst these problems. There is a big difference between conditions and reactions, the crappy weather is a condition to make me angry, but my reaction is entirely my own.
We need to distinguish between inner and outer problems.
Lets take a look at some outer and inner problems
- Your car won't start – outer problem
- You car won't start and you become enraged and angry – inner problem
What if you acknowledged that your car is broken, but didn't get upset and become enraged. Can you see how your inner peace isn't disrupted. You can calmly and effectively deal with your outer problem.
- Your partner broke up with you unexpectedly – outer problem
- You turn into a jealous, grief stricken mess – inner problem
What if you allowed yourself to feel loss, sadness and hurt without letting these emotions consume you? What if you understood at your core that you can't control other people and that they are not the true source of your happiness. You can give yourself the tools through mindfulness to move on without allowing the situation to destroy you.
- It's raining on your outdoor party – outer problem
- Instead of enjoying the day you stomp around and make life miserable for everyone – inner problem
What if instead of complaining all day, you move your party inside and make the best of the situation. You could still have a fabulous day, it might not be exactly as you expected, but it might turn out equally great.
- You develop a terminal illness – outer problem
- Instead of enjoying your last days you develop anger and denial and enter into deep depression – inner problem
What if instead of spending your final days in deep, dark depression you used your time to truly live in the moment and appreciate each moment. You could spend your last days overcome with joy or filled with sadness, it's up to you. Regardless of how you choose to react the situation can not be changed.
By changing the way you react to your problems you can completely change your states of mind, which completely effect your happiness. This is not saying that there are no outer problems, and that you don't need to take the appropriate steps to solve your outer problem, it is just saying in the process of doing so you can keep a calm, peaceful state of mind. By keeping your state of mind calm and peaceful you will be better equipped to effectively deal with the problems at hand.
These states of mind take a lot of work and practice, and it is unreasonable to say that your inner states will never be outplayed by those sneaky outer problems, but in time we can work towards making our inner states a little happier. We can do this one problem at a time.
So let me ask you, what exactly is your problem?