One of the mainstays of Buddhism is the idea that all mental suffering stems from the clinging of wanting things to be different than they are in the moment. (I am not a Buddhist but, like so many belief systems, I find great value in many of the principles and statements.)
Lately I have been noticing how exceedingly true that observation is as a general statement.
Notice that it’s the clinging and not having the idea or need for things to be different that creates resistance and suffering. Wanting things to be different is why so many people are actively involved in social justice movements, politics, as counselors, and advocates for any system that works for a better future. People who are active in these activities are not stuck in wishing things would be different and getting stuck in the thought.
Key to this is avoiding getting stuck in the loop of problem identification. I find myself walking away from conversation that are simply identifying problems. Many people seem stuck in the “That is wrong, this is wrong, that needs to change, they need to change, and someone needs to do something about that” mode. Yikes. It’s like watching clothes in a dryer. Lots of movement with zero direction. And the same stuff keeps showing up!
My rule of thumb is if I want something to be different then what am I going to do about it? I have noticed that there is ALWAYS something to be done if I don’t limit myself to trying to change specifics but look at the greater, wider, and more inclusive possibilities for solutions.
I can’t solve world hunger but I can feed someone. I can’t solve the climate problems, but I can be paying attention to how I add to the problem and change my behaviors. I can’t save all the animals but I can save a few by action or support. I may not be able to resolve human conflicts and the resulting negative emotions but I can be kind to everyone in proximity and remain open to learning and understanding. There is always an action I can take if I don’t limit myself to specifics but look through the broader view.
Doing something moves me from clinging in a loop of ideas involved in problem identification to attention on the act of doing and seeking whatever resolution is possible within my resources.
Nothing is going to be different in this moment and I understand that and accept that fact. Wishing and emoting about how things could be different might trigger ideas about Where action is needed.
Wasting time problem identifying endlessly is not something I care to do anymore. I think it’s easy to slip into and so I have become dedicated to noticing if I am falling into that trap.
I have noticed that life seems clearer, less obsessive, and with much less suffering.
Take care of you and all you love,