Finding Solutions to Problems
Finding Solutions to Problems

It’s natural to want solutions to the problems we experience. Most problems feel uncomfortable, especially pervasive and/or enduring ones like marital/relationship conflict, and/or low self-esteem. Problems lead to pain. Pain leads to suffering, and no one likes to suffer. The Buddha discovered this on his path to liberation.

The Buddha identified the concept of suffering through a set of four truths. He called them The Four Noble Truths: 1.) All life is suffering 2.) The cause of our suffering is craving 3.) The end of suffering comes with an end to craving. And thankfully, he did not leave out that 4.) there is a path that leads one away from craving and suffering. 

It would seem then, that craving would lead humans to all kinds of problems of suffering – problems that beget even more problems (of suffering). There is a Buddhist parable “The Two Arrows.” A man is shot in the arm by an arrow. The first arrow causes physical pain. The second arrow is where the mind goes that causes the suffering. 

Most of us think our problems are the result of external factors; therefore, we look for the solution in the external environment. For example, “if I lose weight, make more money, or if my partner, or spouse changes.” But, have you ever noticed, once the external change happens, there’s another problem? This is craving and suffering.

The Buddha identified a path to end the suffering through The Eightfold Path: 1.) Right View. 2.) Right Intention. 3.) Right Speech. 4.) Right Action. 5.) Right Livelihood. 6.) Right Effort. 7.) Right Mindfulness, and 8.) Right Concentration. So, what does this have to do with finding solutions to problems?

Solutions to problems happen when there is real change. Real change happens when a person is living to some degree within these 8 precepts. The good new is, small changes (or steps) made over time and with consistency produce real change. It’s hard work to change, but it is possible and it’s worth it. 

Many of us seek (and think there are) quick solutions to our problems. This makes sense, because our current reality is shaped by these messages through media, society, family of origin, and more. The truth is, if there were quick solutions to the problems we all experience as humans, we’d all be using them and *poof* our problems would be solved. 

On the Buddhist path, the ultimate solution to the problems of being human is complete liberation, or exoneration of our suffering – “forever.” Nothing is impossible; however, most of us grasp for this outside of ourselves. This is our biggest mistake as human beings, because this keeps us on the wheel of suffering – chasing the proverbial carrot.

One of the biggest solutions to our problems of suffering, is to let go of any notion that someday we will be exonerated from our suffering when we attain that thing outside of ourselves; and instead, start with ourself. The real solution to any problem is change from the inside out. 

Whether you are resolving disagreements, making big life decisions, or getting sober, striving to do what is right will set you on a path of liberation from suffering. When you feel, think, speak, and act with respect to yourself and others, learn to control impulses, and see situations objectively you take the right actions towards solving any problem. 

The Buddha once said, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Lao Tsu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” There are no shortcuts, or pain-free solutions on the path to Nirvana, but, there is the gift of your conscience and free will inviting you to take the right step at every corner. Take that step now. The world needs you.