When life becomes a problem, a way out is a change of perspective, writes Anando.
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and then if I don’t catch myself, I can easily descend into life being a problem, rather than a blessing. Losing my sense of humor, and bumping into or misplacing things, are my early warning indicators. Becoming impatient or getting myself into a time-stress, makes me realize that I am already quite a way into ‘losing the plot’, as we say in Australia, and taking life (and myself) far too seriously.
Then I have to remind myself about a wonderful insight from Osho: heaven and hell are not geographical, they don’t exist somewhere, they are psychological states. They exist only in our mind, and we have the capacity to live in either.
“Heaven is here – you just have to know how to live it. And hell too is here, and you know perfectly well how to live it. It is only a question of changing your perspective, your approach towards life.” *
One of the easiest ways I have found to change my perspective, is to start looking for what is going right in my life in that moment.
I can see and feel the overwhelming urge of my mind to stay focused on what is going wrong (doesn’t the mind love to do that – in fact, I think it is the thing the mind knows how to do best of all). So first I have to acknowledge to myself that frustration or impatience or anger (or whatever) is there. Just a simple acknowledgement without judging (that is the key) – yes, that’s what is there right now. This immediately creates some relief, you can actually feel the tension starting to let go with the deep breath that always accompanies an acknowledgment that simply accepts, without condemnation or rejection.
Then I have to make a conscious effort to shift my focus to the satisfying things. It can be very small things – a bird singing outside the window, a phone call from a friend, the neighbor’s cat dropping by to say hello, walking in the garden in bare feet, doing my ‘hammock meditation’, slipping into fresh cool sheets on a warm night, or the satisfaction of restoring order to my desk or cleaning out a cupboard. If I have the time, I will do one of my favorite Osho meditations.
And sometimes it is just not possible to change the focus – the pull to stay with the ‘problem’, chewing away on the negative story, is just too strong. Then the only thing to do is to acknowledge that: ‘Right now I want to stay in the problem state.’ The mind will argue, ‘No, I don’t want to stay in the problem state, I want to change my focus, but I can’t.’ Osho reminds us that this is just a trick of the mind, a way to avoid taking responsibility.
The fact is that we have created the problem ourselves – it exists in our own mind. OK, there is an outside situation, or set of circumstances, that has provoked the feeling of hell, but it is our own interpretation of that situation that causes it to be a problem. (Usually, it is because our mind wants something or someone to be different.) And that is the doorway to hell.
The doorway to heaven is to take responsibility that this is my own choice right now. Although my conscious, rational mind might say otherwise, there is clearly a bigger unconscious part of me that is attached to this problem. And that is just how it is right now. And then live that, with full awareness – that I am choosing, consciously or unconsciously, to stay in this hell. Because, as Osho says, how long can you stay in hell when you acknowledge that it is your choice to be there or not?
So taking responsibility, that this is my choice, leaves open the doorway to change when we are ready – when we are fed up enough with staying in that problem state. And in my experience, I get to that ‘fed-up’ point a lot faster when I don’t fool myself that I am trying to get out of the problem but I can’t.
In fact, I am always surprised at how easy it is to change my ‘mood’ once I take responsibility that I am the one creating it. I am also surprised at how easy it is to forget sometimes that life is too short, and too precious, to waste on ‘problems’. And most of all, I am surprised at how easily I forget to take account of, and be grateful for, all the nourishing moments in my life.
Osho suggests keeping a diary for 24 hours, listing all the satisfying things one can possibly find. It is a really good way to help shift the focus away from the left brain, which as we noted before is always looking for what is wrong, to the right brain, which accepts everything as it is, without judging or rejecting or wanting anything to be different.
He also suggests giving yourself permission to be like a child sometimes – to look at life through the fresh innocent eyes of a child, without ‘knowledge’, exploring and discovering things anew.
“Start looking like a child again. Go to the seashore and again start collecting seashells. See a child collecting seashells – as if he has found a mine of diamonds. So thrilled he is! See a child making sandcastles and how absorbed he is, utterly lost, as if there is nothing more important than making sandcastles. See a child running after a butterfly… and be a child again. Start running after butterflies again. Make sandcastles, collect seashells. Don’t live as if you know.” **
Italian translation first published in La Via Naturale, Italy
Quoted from Osho’s discourses:
* The Book of Wisdom, Ch 11, Q 4
** Ah, This! Ch 2, Q 2
Artwork by Shivananda – shivananda.ch
Related article by the same author:
What I have learned about ‘problems’