The stress of the thought “I can’t figure this out!” and how it leaves us chasing the future.

This Sunday afternoon 2-6 pm....Mini Retreat in The Work. This is the last short gathering like this at my own home this year, and maybe forever.

I have gotten so very, very full on week days, and teaching longer retreats five times a year, it seems the natural way of it to reduce the little Sunday gatherings. (I'll be at East West Books on Thursday, June 27th for a shorter thing 7-9 pm).

One of the things I've adored about a 4 hour gathering, is that when you're familiar with The Work, there's nothing like a time set aside to sit in inquiry and sort something out in your life that feels like a problem. It's so precious to have the whole afternoon.

What's amazing to so many of us, and still is to me honestly, is that this is ultimately all we need to begin to work out a pattern, an issue, a difficulty, some kind of trouble about life.

The mind says "Really? That's it? Answer four questions? Seriously?"

Aren't you just sitting with you-yourself-and-I? Don't we need some kind of teacher, wisdom, friend or message from the heavens to help us figure out the answers to our problems?

Funny the mind will think it's not enough.

It can't be here, the answers I'm looking for. Oh no. It can't be inside the very problem I'm looking to get rid of, right?

Can't we something fun like watch a movie or eat, drink, smoke, ignore What Is? If I have to sit down, with other people around especially, and look at my judgmental thoughts, it will be excruciating.


What's funny is it seems the mind will do anything but open to sit with itself, and the thoughts it's agonizing over, and answer four questions.

At least that's the way it seems my mind has been, heh heh.

Just for today, though, let's look at a global thought that's very stressful and even frightening.

I can't figure this out.

You know the thing you can't figure out? That one.

Hold it in your mind. See the images of you not figuring it out. Maybe there's another person who always drives you nuts. Or a habit you have of hurting yourself (like I did with eating and body image) or you don't have enough time, money, success, patience.

You can't figure it out.

Is it true?


Are you absolutely 100% sure for all time that you can't...right now in this moment?

No. Well, maybe. I don't know. OK, no. I can't absolutely know.

How do you react when you believe you can't?

Hopeless. Screwed. Angry. Sad. Mad at myself, and the situation and confused about all the parts involved and what's going on. I'm trying so hard! And not only can I not figure it out....there's a list of other things I can't figure out either.


Pause. Breathe.

So, who would you be without your story of this "problem" that you can't figure out, and the YOU that can't do it?

In this moment, wherever you are as you read these words, feel your feet and notice the space around you. I hear the voice of Byron Katie saying "are you OK?" as she does with inquirers sometimes.

You're alive. A non-verbal current of life.

I love this feeling of sinking into the body. Nothing to do, no problems to solve, nowhere to go, stillness. Something can possibly change right now, in this quiet stillness.

This sensation is often a first place to go with question four (who would you be without your thought you can't figure it out) but then really considering reality:

What if you aren't in charge, and you aren't supposed to figure it out the way you assume you should? And what if figuring it out looks like relaxing and NOT exactly figuring it out the way you thought you were going to? What if you simply respond to what happens, and dance with it, and notice you're aware? What if that is actually "figuring" it out?

Even if you're dying of a disease supposedly. I know that's dramatic. But even then. What if there was no future, no past, and only this moment here now? Could that have a quality of figuring something out to it?

Why not?

What if I am not supposed to figure out HOW, in this whole entire moment, to make enough money, clean the house, stop obsessing or thinking with drama, lose weight, talk to that friend, deal with my mother, run a marathon, fix the roof, fill the seats, help my child, sell my artwork, hire the handyman, save for retirement, get enlightened, apply for a job, get a raise, find a partner.

I mean, that's such a relief, right? How could any of that, or even the one thing you're wanting to resolve a particular way....get resolved in that exact particular way, with "figuring" going on?

Or, let the mind figure. It loves to figure.

Are you still OK, even if it's busy figuring over there (up there)?

Turning the thought around: I CAN figure it out. "I" can figure it out. "I" doesn't need to figure it out, actually. When "I" is a wide open life force, a space, a current of energy.....not the "I" who is "the one who needs to figure something out". No figuring necessary.

Turning it around again: Figuring it out can "I". I know that's a bit weird. But it's a reverse of the energy. Instead of "me" with my brain trying to hard to get somewhere, through figuring....what if it's just as true or truer that this figuring thing can get absorbed into the mysterious "I"?

I can figure it out. Nothing more required. Nothing missing.

I love the movement of figuring can include the wisdom of simply being, the "I", the unidentifiable sense of life force, the being here. Just here.

“This moment is not life waiting to happen, goals waiting to be achieved, words waiting to be spoken, connections waiting to be made, regrets waiting to evaporate, aliveness waiting to be felt, enlightenment waiting to be gained. No. Nothing is waiting. This is it. This moment is life.” ~ Jeff Foster

Much love,

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