How many times do we find ourselves struggling over something—a decision we need to make, an argument with a partner or coworker, some life circumstance—only to bring all of our decision-making awareness to the current moment where we feel confused, unclear, and reactive? We then respond to the external discomfort from this place rather than using more mindful energy for deeper resolution within ourselves and to set up better outcomes? You see, even though we may be in conflict with someone else, the deeper conflict lies within. “The way we deal with the issue IS the issue,” I can hear my teachers say. We can be blind to the inner issue, and even waste valuable time trying to negotiate a solution at the level of the problem and reactivity, without the inner understanding of how to recreate our desired solution going forward. We repeat the struggle over and over again, and remain frustrated, dissatisfied, or even avoid conflict altogether because it just doesn’t seem to accomplish anything.
I propose an alternate path that is more self-reflective, honoring and sustainable in making healthier decisions that last. If you think of the current struggle as an end point, or an outcome, you can reverse engineer the struggle by tracking the choices, interpretations, compromises, and actions that you personally made that have contributed to this outcome. Then you can better understand how to make different choices. Let me fervently clarify that this is not about blaming yourself. In fact, it sets up an environment where we can actually hold more compassion for ourselves as we realize how we compromised our inner wisdom and made choices that led to our settling for less, resulting in living out of sync with our deepest values. Yes, it can be an emotional realization to track this process, but truly a revelatory and profoundly helpful one. And I daresay even a fun one as we get better at it. Because in the process of tracking back through our path that created this situation for us, we will see more clearly the times when we dishonored ourselves or others and practiced behaviors that did not match up with what we actually want, and this is how we make more productive choices. We won’t be perfect, we will backslide from time to time, but even that can be less weighty as we align with our deeper commitment to grow and evolve. We can start seeing more levity in the gravity.
It takes a broad view to be able to know the implications of today’s actions on tomorrow’s outcome. But it is possible and even natural for us to live with this kind of expanded awareness. And we do it already to a certain extent, and always have. It’s just that we have become conditioned to accept blame, external referencing, and deflecting responsibility as a strategy to protect ourselves or cope with life, and in the end it leads to a greater struggle for us.
Is there a struggle in your life now, a decision you need to make, or something you are dissatisfied with? First, reverse engineer this current struggle, this outcome, by tracking choices or interpretations YOU made, as far back as they may go, that could have contributed to this current undesirable situation. You can also practice this with something that has occurred that you feel is not resolved fully and still lingers. What choices did you make? What was your communication? What did you give up or feel you would gain by the choices you we’re making? Remember, even avoiding pain and conflict by not taking action or communicating can be a strategy we use to comfort ourselves, but which often just leads to undesired outcomes. Next, preferably choice by choice, what could you have done or thought differently that could lead to a different experience? By looking at each choice and making healthier choices, you can bring yourself back to the present with a new understanding of how you can make the most productive decisions going forward.
Hey, I’m a magical thinker, which just means that I believe that by directing my thoughts in a certain way I have resulting positive and even ordinary magical experiences. So I believe that as we reverse engineer life’s struggles and rewire the path that got us there, we are rewiring our brains and our whole being, and a different energy field is activated that drives us in a direction more aligned with our deepest values and desires.
We create all kinds of experiences, both good and bad. Life is infinite, and includes all varieties of possibility. We are not separate from that, and we cannot avoid all pain. As Haruki Murakami said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” But I feel greatly comforted to know that whatever pain I may experience in this lifetime, I have a fascinating and highly educational inner tracking system to guide myself to healthier and happier ways of being and relationships with others.
As we enter this Winter Solstice and magical, possibly snowy period of family, giving, and festivity, my wish for you is that you experience the magic inside of yourself and share that with those you love.
Happy Holidays everyone! Melanie