Monday’s Meditation: On What To Do Vs. What To Learn

Monday, February 23, 2015

Freaking out over what to do to solve the difficult situation you're in?? Read this.

This classic Pema again and always.


My dad has never let me off the psychological hook.

“What should I say to her?” I’d ask him.

Or, “How should I handle this?”

Or, “Do you think he’s bad news?” 

It’s a losing game, for the record; continually going to someone whose specialty is what to feel or who to be and asking for advice exclusively aimed on what to do.

“Well,” he would say, “What do you think this might be here to teach you?”

“Ucchhh, daaaaaaddddd. Can’t you just tell me if you think I should break up with this boy or not?!”

Of course he was spot on, but I wouldn’t understand that until years after I had, in fact, broken up with the boy.


There are two levels to attend to in any situation: the surface level that requires an action, and the spiritual level that requires stillness.

Most of us can’t help but to rush to serve the surface. There are expectations, after all. There’s common courtesy, and the way things are done, and, there’s deadlines! There are conversations we’re going to have to have and words we need to prepare and answers we’ll have to give. The pressure is on in that arena–others are waiting on us, being affected by our decisions.

The spiritual level is beyond all that. It exists in a realm free of the minutiae of daily life so many of us unknowingly cling to, if only so that we can be distracted from delving deeper. What lies beyond the surface is most pertinent to us, alone. It doesn’t easily convince us of its urgency the way external actions do. Yet if we are mindful, we realize it is equally as important as the surface, and most probably, even more so.

To be really effective people, we need to serve both levels of any situation. We need not only to determine what our action will be, but why. We need to be aware not only of all outer factors, but of what it all means underneath.

The truth is that at any moment we’re in the perfect scenario for ourselves. Whatever dilemma, whatever transition, whatever turmoil is present is precisely what we need. We’ve created it, after all, in one way or another, and we’ve done so because we need to learn whatever lesson is contained within. If we fail to learn that lesson, we will inevitably repeat it

If we are perpetually uncomfortable with uncertainty, if we hate and resent whatever hard thing it is we’re dealing with, spiraling endlessly in a web of worry and doubt and self-hatred, our primary aim will always be to figure out what to do as soon as possible so as to exit the situation unscathed.

But we have another choice, which is to open ourselves fully to the moment at hand, asking ourselves: what is this here to teach me? What lesson is it essential that I learn from this in order to be a better, more balanced version of my self going forward?

And: If fear is calling out a slew of conclusions, and love is calling out a different set of answers, which of those two voices will I choose to follow?

Which one will you?



One thought on “Monday’s Meditation: On What To Do Vs. What To Learn

  1. Gaynell

    Wow — bullseye!!! You put words to my swirling feelings and I feel an inspired new direction. Perk up and lean in is my new mantra. I need to refer to this post regularly — you really nailed it. Have you considered writing a book?


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