By Life Positive June 2003 When cornered by problems, lost in the dark abyss where nothing seems to help, there is still a way out. For problems may not be in our hands, but handling them skillfully is. Here are some tips for effective problem solving from a Tibetan master Saints, philosophers, achievers all agree that problems enrich life as much as victories and happiness. What is important is to not let them intimidate you, and develop the skill to use them to empower the self. There are many ways to do this, ways that help you overcome your worst fears and problems. Some are suggested by Tulku Thondup, an adept of the Nyingma branch of Tibetan Buddhism, in his book The Healing Power of Mind.AVOIDAn important thing about problems is to try and avoid them if they seem mild or temporary. Says Tulku: ‘‘If we don‘t mind these problems, they will go away.‘‘ When you are not ready to face problems, it is best to avoid them. Only when you know you have the mental strength should you try to resolve the problem or release it through meditation. On the other hand, if you are one of those whose minds are strong and who have a great deal of pride, it would be helpful to feel deeply the pain brought by the problem. This will help get rid of some of the pride by facilitating a connection with the very core of life, thereby focusing attention in the right direction. RECOGNISE AND ACCEPTRecognizing and accepting one‘s problems in the right spirit is imperative to begin the process of healing. While some problems are evidently unimportant, others need to be faced in their totality. It often becomes a habit with us to push away problems that seem insurmountable, forgetting that they will reappear, maybe in a more destructive form. Identifying a problem clearly is the first step to dealing with it. If committed to solving it, each problem will appear easier to deal with and it is possible that those that we thought permanent and irresolvable will vanish. FIND THE SOURCENow that you have the right attitude, it is time to begin the process of dealing with your problem. Begin with trying to find the source. To understand the problem, sit in a comfortable, quiet place that affords few distractions. Relax your body and quieten your mind. Breathe deeply, and imagine all your worries being released with the out-breath. Feel peaceful, clear and spacious. Allow yourself to be in that peace for a while. Then slowly, look at the problem you are facing. See it and also feel it. Acknowledge its presence. Tulku Thondup also suggests retracing one‘s steps and going back in memory. Think of how the problem may have begun. Go back to the earliest possible time, place and source of the pain. See the possible shape, color, temperature and location of that place. As we begin contemplating the causes and feeling them, our healing has begun. FEEL THE PROBLEM See your problems objectively without pre-labeling them as negative. If you feel sad or wronged, even small issues could seem big. While healing, no emotion needs to be denied. Allow your feelings to surface so that they can be released. If there is emotional pain, it indicates the impact this shake-up is having on you. So it is good to cry as it releases mental stress, physical pressure and chemical toxins that build up when we hold back pain. Express naturally and frankly without grasping, hiding or defending the pain. Allowing grief its natural space to heal will finally lead to it running its course, says Tulku. CHANGE PERCEPTIONS Constantly dwelling upon a situation will make you suffer. Seeing a problem as negative, constantly thinking and talking about its severity makes even small hurdles seem insurmountable. Despite everything, remember to be gentle with yourself. All this is about perceptions then. Avoid disharmonious words. When you generate strong positive energy, it can help cease, or at least ease suffering. Make friends with problems. When difficult emotions come, you can ask them what they want. You may need to relax and stop grasping, to take better care of yourself and recognize your true needs, or to change your behavior. CLEAR MENTAL GARBAGE A major goal of spiritual practice is to clear our minds of the intellectual and emotional garbage we have collected since childhood, so that we can provide space for true relaxation and enjoyment. Tulku warns that while positive thoughts become nourishment for the mind, negative views and passions have toxic effects. It is important to make a determined effort not to let our mind dwell on problems as negative. Occupy your mind with something else-reading, gardening, or painting. They are often the anchors that see people through their problems. When feeling overwhelmed by sadness or loneliness, you can merge in the openness of the sadness. Allow your breathing to become relaxed. Instead of trying to push the sadness away, or labeling it as `bad‘, stay where you are mentally, open but calm. Feel your sadness without grasping or judging, just as it is. Relax and merge with the feeling, lose yourself in it, space into space. FIGHT PHOBIAS In the case of phobias, the problem is fear of fear, the tightening grip of the mind that magnifies and multiplies an original fear until the mouth dries up, the throat closes, and the body shakes. Under such circumstances, meditations and positive visualizations can help. Welcome the fear. Relax your body and breathing, and allow the fear to rise up. Experience it; try to be open to it. If the body shakes, allow it, let go of the wish to push this away, but at the same time maintain relaxed breathing. (Compiled by Nishtha Shukla from The Healing Power of Mind by Tulku Thondup, Published by Penguin Arkana)
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