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  • Mer Monson

The Illusion of Problems

As I listened to my friend’s family share stories at her funeral, I couldn’t help but smile as I realized the problem she’d come to me with a few months back didn’t actually exist anywhere other than in her head. And I nearly laughed out loud when I saw what I’d been stewing about for days wasn’t real either. I love the way brushes with death offer a washing down of life to its bare bones and a dismantling of all our made-up troubles.

Funnily enough, my problem felt real all over again a few days later. I conjured it out of thin air and threw it back onto my shoulders, as if I wasn’t quite ready to trust the weightlessness of not having all the answers be up to me.

Ever notice how problems get solved when we change, not when they do? What if they are nothing more than a mirage, a thought-created glitch in our made-up reality, an amusing side effect of believing we're the ones making life happen? Innocently creating obstacles and earnestly trying to fix them is a completely human thing to do, but the drive to solve an endless train of troubles loses steam when we start to glimpse we’re making them all up in the first place. It doesn’t matter if problems are fully in our face or churning out a steady hum of angst in the background, what keeps them solid is the misguided thought that what’s off is out there not in here, and the sticky belief we somehow have to get on the other side of them in order to be okay.

The easiest way out of getting washed up in a rinse-and-repeat cycle of struggle is to see through the grand illusion that we have to have, be or do something in order to feel peace. We are made of peace. Our essence is infused with it. We couldn't get away from it if we tried, and getting lost in the labyrinth of thought is the only thing that can convince us otherwise. Yes we feel that labyrinth and sometimes it hurts like crazy, but it's designed to dissolve if we don't turn it into something solid by trying to solve it. The moment we fall out of our thinking or, better yet, get eyes for the whole labyrinth, the wisdom and resilience beneath it breaks through. I love the way my friend Scott puts it, “Somewhere before thought, we’re already everything we’re looking for.”

There is a space within us that doesn’t even know what a problem is. The scenery is gorgeous in there, and we can easily glimpse the world of possibility as it is, free of edges or walls. And wouldn't you know, it’s where all the answers to our messes live, even if they still look 100% real. It’s where we can hold pain and heartache with grace, in a way that doesn’t chew us up and spit us out. It’s a kind, wise landscape, out beyond our heavy thinking, where we can rest in the unknown until our eyes clear enough to see the intangible nature of the trouble we’re swimming in. Real answers, the kind that deeply satisfy and transform us, never lie in what's already cycled through our brain a thousand times. They live in the spaciousness of the unknown where we can't help but find a quiet heart, fresh ideas and a sense of anything that needs doing. But the best gift? It drops us right back into the magic of being alive.

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