The first question that pops up for many of us when in conflict is “How can I fix this?” And, our conditioning is that fixing a difficult situation is what we must do. Unfortunately, this question is also the first step to either be stuck with or increase our inner discomfort, thus escalating the external conflict. Here is why:
The question “How can I fix this?” does not only carry the assumption that the external circumstances are the cause of our discomfort and that by somehow manipulating them, we will find a way out of conflict; it also activates the thinking mind and hijacks the focus of our attention on analyzing (and dissecting) the external circumstances, such as other people’s behaviors and our imagined reasons behind them.
As most of us have experienced, there are few if any limits to how many ways and times the thinking mind can look at and dissect a situation. But what is worse, it drives us to do something about what is outside of us; a doing which is based on the story we have told ourselves about the external circumstances and not reality itself.
The effect of these efforts is that we become even more stuck in conflict situation (or contribute to escalating it), while increasing our inner discomfort.
But, if we could consider for a moment that the cause of our discomfort in conflict is not outside of us, but within us, then figuring out how to “fix” the outside is like trying to stop a bathtub overflowing with water by scooping up the water from the floor as fast as we can instead of turning off the tap. If the external circumstances are just messengers, alerting us to what is happening within, then how could we hear the message when we are busy thinking and doing something about them?
One way, is for us to choose to press the “PAUSE” button – to take a few moments (or more) to refrain from thinking or talking about the triggering situation or person and above all to refrain from reacting to it. Instead, we put our attention on our breathing, sensations in the body or our immediate physical surroundings. Focusing on the present moment, without thinking about it connects us to the reality as it is right now. Once we anchor our attention here, in this moment, we create the possibility of letting our response meet the actual situation we are facing, instead of the story about the situation we’ve created in our mind.
It was Einstein who once said that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In practical terms this means that we need to step out of thinking by pressing the PAUSE button. When we do we take the first step to solving the problem/conflict by opening ourselves up to another level of consciousness – beyond the thinking mind.
Pressing the PAUSE button does not give us instant certainty of how to respond but if we’re patiently willing to stay with the discomfort and with not knowing how to respond, an answer will come. And when it does, it often may surprise us. In many instances the need for doing something falls away and we are left with the space and peace of what is, seeing that there was never anything “out there” to fix.