Most problems didn’t start yesterday. They developed over time.
A health problem, for instance, is often years in the making. Relationship problems establish themselves gradually and include specific details unique to you.
In a seminar I attended long ago with a wise and wonderful woman named Gangaji, a student grappled with a family problem and said she wasn’t making progress. She said the family dynamic was hopeless and would never change.
Gangaji did what Gangaji does — she stopped. For a short time, she did “nothing.”
After the silence, Gangaji said to the student, “Teach me how to have your problem.”
The woman gulped, but cooperated. With Gangaji’s helpful humor and encouragement, the woman described precise steps for creating and maintaining the enduring family squabble.
She taught Gangaji exactly how to fan the fight flames: what to say, how often to say it, what decisions to make as a result, what attitudes and expectations to develop, what to give attention to and what to ignore, and what to conclude. She taught Gangaji exactly how to have her problem.
After divulging all of this, the woman could no longer pretend she was helpless or didn’t know what was going on. The situation was no longer a mystery! She became aware of her part in the family dynamic — and she owned it. It was as if this woman walked from the deep forest of confusion and pretending, into a sun drenched clearing. She woke up.
This woman did a very powerful thing — she “outed” herself and now there was no turning back! She had become aware of her creation.
It Takes Years
To illustrate how detail-driven a problem is, may I show you a wacky example? Sometimes it helps to elevate a problem to the level of ridiculous.
Here’s my problem: I fail at roasting Jalapenos.
I’m going to teach you how to have my problem.
As you read the steps below, note the time and effort required to orchestrate even one small, unimportant failure — it’s pretty epic!
How To Fail At Roasting Jalapeno Peppers.
- Buy a home large enough to rent out part of it, say, a couple rooms on the lower level.
- Five winters later, fix up the lower level. Make electrical improvements, wash windows, vacuum, remove spiders, scrub high and low. Install an air filter, buy a small frig, a microwave and a toaster oven. Have a couple of friends downsize and buy some of their furniture, bedding and a heater. Make it a comfortable bedroom, work area, kitchen and bathroom — a space you would truly love. This takes a while.
- When you’re finished, list the room on AirBnB. Wait patiently for Spring and guests.
- Meanwhile, bake and roast often in your kitchen during the cold winter to keep the house (and tummies) warm. Even though you should clean your oven regularly with all that roasting going on, say to yourself (all winter long) “I’ll get to it later.”
- Spring comes. Hooray!
- Have a friend give you way too much organic produce, including jalapenos – fifty of them – enough to set the world on fire! Give a bunch to your hot friend and keep the rest. Decide to freeze half of them and roast the other half. Sounds brilliant.
- Welcome AirBnB guests to your home who will review their stay and post it publicly when they leave, which influences your future business. These kind folks are thrilled to be at your home, and tell you the accommodations look super lovely and they can’t wait to unpack. They are looking forward to getting into that beautiful, comfy bed, so they can sleep late tomorrow morning and s-l-o-w-l-y wake up peaceful and happy to the calm, beautiful Spring morning before them.
- You wake up in the morning and let it slip from your mind that you have guests (after all, renting the lower level is a pretty new endeavor.)
- At 7:15 am get the bright idea that roasting jalapenos while making your coffee and doing early morning kitchen puttering would be a smart use of time.
- Prepare the peppers, put them on the baking sheet, leave the oven door ajar to keep a close watch, and fire up the broiler. Let the roasting begin!
- Look away, fix your coffee and do a few other things. When you turn back, smoke is pouring out of the oven like a house afire. (Should have cleaned that darn oven!)
- Suddenly you recall downstairs guests and the possibility of the kitchen smoke alarm sounding. Your snoozing-and-dreaming-of-rainbows guests are counting on peace and calm as they luxuriously open their dreamy morning eyes in their very first AirBnB experience.
- Slamming the oven door really fast, you stand still (as if that will help), you don’t breathe (as if that will help) and pray like mad (you hope that will help!) Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? You think it would be a bad idea for the whole house to burn down due to 50 overheated jalapenos. The 6 pm news story would be soooo pitiful. You peer quickly into the oven again, coughing into the jalapeno laced smoke. Even though your eyes are burning and your lungs are stinging, you still somehow come to the conclusion that things are “not too bad.” You crank off the heat, and decide not to open the oven again for a good long while. You run around like a blind anti-stink-idiot, opening windows and closing the door to the downstairs — so if the smoke alarm does go off, it won’t be quite so piercing to the rainbow dreamers below.
- Then you sit down. Ohmmmmmm…………
- Either your Ohm magic is paying off or the smoke alarm is non-functional. In any case, thank goodness. Your heart slows down.
- When you finally open the oven door, you take a peak at the peppers. They look rubbery and smell a little funny.
- You upend the stinky mess into the trash, knowing that your downstairs guests are admiring the mountain view as they roll over in their blissful bed, oblivious to the spicy morning happening at full tilt not too far above them.
- You enjoy a nice cup of coffee.
See? The development of a problem is an incredibly complex affair! Look how many details led up to this one little smoky jalapeno morning. It’s never too late to start appreciating the intricacies of how your life is unfolding!
If you take advantage of the opportunity to teach someone else how to have your problem, it will certainly be revealing and quite possibly entertaining! No problem develops over night, it’s a long time comin’ round the mountain when it comes. Once you see how the problem is built, it’s pretty easy to see how to dismantle it.
For me and my problem, it’s easy. Next time, I’ll just say no to the fifty jalapenos.