Bear Lake is a very quiet spot at the end of a long road in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I shot this pic just as an October snowfall had fallen across the mountains. There was a stillness found in strolling quietly around the edge of the lake, a stillness I needed. I was there during the first few months of my wife’s chemo for breast cancer, and something in me sensed that I needed to practice being before things got worse. Later, it did get worse.
What I needed to practice in those days is what I need today. In a world filled with prescriptions for how to problem-solve, I needed to being-solve. I learned the term for this practice in a poem by Mark Nepo, which you are about to read. But the practice is taught in most contemplative traditions, including my own Christian tradition. When circumstances seem to call for goals, strategies, decisions, and action, sometimes the wisest path is to surrender into a state of being.
To practice the way of the being-solve requires immense courage in a problem-solving culture. This way looks passive, and passivity is like a curse-word in this culture. But standing apart from the undertow of the prevalent way in a culture means we have to find strength, a paradoxical kind of muscle, from the inner being.
When my wife was diving down into the terrible treatments for breast cancer I could not solve that “problem.” But I could be as steady as possible in the practice of being. And today when I face challenging situations that seem to cry out for a problem-solve, I still need support in the other way, the way of the contemplative: the being-solve.
If I gave an “answer” to how to being solve, that would be a problem-solve way. This is not a “three easy steps solution now on sale for $9.99.” And besides, I don’t have that answer. But I do know something about settling down into being. I was just there moments ago.
I stretch the body through a sequence of sacred yoga postures to remind me of the inner stillness beneath movement. I practice four bows of reverence, surrender, openness, and resting in stillness. Then I just sit, notice the stream of thoughts which always flood through my mind, and surrender them as best I can. This surrender is turning them over to the care of God for a moment, until the next one passes through.
After all these words about the being-solve way, you will be most helped by Mark Nepo’s poem, “Coming Out,” found on page 153 of his book, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen.
While there is much to do
we are not here to do.
Under the want to problem-solve
is the need to being-solve.
Often, with full being
the problem goes away.
The seed being-solves its
darkness by blossoming.
The heart being-solves its loneliness
by loving whatever it meets.
The tea being-solves the water
by becoming tea.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.