“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”
“What we resist, persists.”
–Carl Gustav Jung
Have you ever seen a fly at the window? The fly wants to escape; to get out. It can see what is on the other side of the glass. It wants to experience what is on the other side of the glass. Yet, the glass keeps it apart from what it wants to experience. The fly takes action. The fly works hard. The fly works non-stop. Yet, the fly remains trapped. The harder it works, the more desperate it becomes. The more desperate it becomes, the harder it works… all the while growing weaker. Some die at the window. They die of exhaustion. They die from trying. Ironically, they die from persevering.
Some flies are lucky. They escape. They try something new… they try flying to a new place and looking for a way out and then another and another, until at last, they are free!
Observing these flies often makes me think about how we as people sometimes go about our lives. We might sometimes find ourselves in difficult situations… times when we feel pain or discomfort. We are used to giving all of our energy to fighting against it. Like the fly at the window we struggle and fight and are left feeling exhausted – often without making any real progress. We are lucky. The price we pay is exhaustion (but if we keep this up, it can lead to stress and ultimately to ‘dis-ease’). Yet we still pay a price: our present moment is robbed of happiness and it its place we have stress, struggle, and fear.
We want change. That is a good thing. But there are some things we might do well to remember if we are to fare better than the fly at the window:
- Sometimes, change may not happen overnight and we need to learn to be ok with that. It serves us to honour the process rather than try to force results.
- Sometimes, things will sort themselves out on their own and we just need to get out of the way (I see this happen with parenting and relationships a lot).
- We value perseverance, yet sometimes we need to pause and take time out to find clarity (I once read that perseverance can get you killed – if you keep persevering even when the path you are on leads you to the edge of a cliff). Perseverance only serves us when it is applied from a place of clarity. Taking time out to find that clarity is not only an act of self-love, but it also makes us more effective as problem-solvers!
- Above all else, we need to stop seeing these things as ‘problems’ and reacting to them in that way. This is the true lesson we can take from the fly at the window. We can’t afford to fall into a repetitive pattern of stimulus and response. As Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” It doesn’t mean we give up wanting a change for the better. It means we stop giving all our energy and attention to judging and condemning the ‘problem’ and struggling against it. Instead we can choose to stay calm and create the mental atmosphere that allows the solution to emerge. When we move out of the ‘problem mindset’ and from seeing things as they are, we allow ourselves to enter the ‘solution mindset’ and seeing things as they could be. But this requires that we change our focus and often, we need to let go for this to happen.
- Last, but not least, we can change our orientation altogether and see the ‘problem’ in a new light – as something that is not a problem. Let me explain: I sometimes used to wake up around 3 a.m for no apparent reason. It used to bug me and I would try very hard to get back to sleep. Most of the time, all the trying in the world didn’t make it happen and a good 3 or so hours after, I would start my day feeling tired (more from the struggle than a lack of sleep) and irritated. What a way to start the day!? Then, (fortunately) I heard a talk by Dr. Wayne Dyer where he said how he would find himself waking up around 3 a.m. some mornings and how he felt that it was a cue from God / Source for him to write. He went on to say that this was a time of day where he felt very connected to God / Source, which made it easier for him to write well. So here was a man in his 70’s who, when he found himself waking up at an un-Godly hour, chose instead to say that it was God waking him up so he could write! Talk about re-framing a situation! So when I started viewing my early morning starts in this way, it made me feel a whole lot better. At best, I would get lots of quiet ‘me’ time to write and enjoy. At worst, I would be a bit groggy for part of the day… but it sure beat feeling irritated and miserable throughout the day. It hardly ever happens now, but when it does, it works in my favour! Incidentally, it is Dr. Dyer who famously said: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” and this is a great example of how he applies this idea in his day to day life.
So there you have it… the recipe for a problem-free, stress-free life… in just 2 easy steps: 1) stop labelling things as ‘problems’ and 2) when you are faced with a situation that bugs you, go take a nap or do something fun!