What if we could learn to like problems and challenges, like we like ice cream?
Or…cake…or Chilean sea bass…or…chicken tikka masala or…vegan strawberry tarts or….
(just insert favorite food here).
Strange it would be, I know.
This “problems to ice cream” statement has now become one of my favorite statements I’ve ever heard.
It shifted my entire thinking around challenges and obstacles, not just to one of opportunity and learning, but of becoming intimate with the problem and not running away from the dark feelings and thoughts that may arise from it.
Though I’m not a Buddhist per say, a lot of the concepts in Buddhism have helped me along the way in life.
Let’s talk about this concept of learning to love challenges, obstacles or problems like you love ice cream (or insert you’re favorite thing here).
I actually recommend you turn it into a reminder or affirmation that is done daily.
Why would we even want to do this? Isn’t it better to “be happy” and avoid problems?
How to Be Your Own Therapist
This golden statement comes from a Google Tech Talk called “How To Be Your Own Therapist” by Robina Courtin.
Robina is a Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition, but she sure isn’t like any Buddhist I’ve ever seen.
I love how direct and rapid fire she is in her teaching/speaking style, and most importantly of all – authentically herself. She drops so many pieces of wisdom – that I watch it over and over.
You see, I used to struggle with social anxiety. I probably wouldn’t have even used an audio program partially responsible for my recovery called Overcoming Social Anxiety Step-by-Step.
I had written off psychology as a healing approach until I heard a comment Robina makes that “The Buddha was a master cognitive therapist.”
I know this is long, but this is really a gem of a video and quite eye opening.
Even though she’s Buddhist, her audience isn’t, after all she’s at Google and dropping some big time knowledge on self-acceptance and fulfillment.
So give it a watch here.
If you’d like some shortcuts to sections of the video I found very insightful, I’ve outlined several of my favorite moments from the talk.
26:00 – The Dalai Lama When he heard about the level of low self-esteem in our culture, he was quite sad…he said ‘that’s a mental illness’.
They don’t even have a concept like that among Tibetans, you know.
What do you mean low self-esteem. How can you hate yourself?
They think it’s a shocking thing to say. But we have bucket loads of it.
Even though we might be getting buckets of dollars, and have brilliant jobs and be praised and loved by everybody, look at the torture inside our hearts.”
Fundamentally, self-esteem is a flawed concept, and there’s good reason why it doesn’t exist in secular Buddhism, which focuses on self-acceptance, non-judgmental living and being.
27:00 “Girlfriends, Money, Job – All Pointless?” (Baby & The Bath Water)
A young man asks that if it’s pointless to have money, girls, cars etc, then shouldn’t we all just get a little bit of food, shelter – and then call it good? Robina says hell no!
Actually the Hinayana school of Buddhism does advocate this, but Robina is from the Mahayana tradition, which later turned into secular Buddism when Chogyam Trungpa came from Tibet to America.
29:00 Death of Loved Ones and Attachment (Broken Cup)
This is very dear to me, as I lost my mother several months ago to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s) disease.
It talks about how you can still greatly care for someone you’ve lost, but yet still be unattached and not let it get you depressed or hinder your life.
39:30 Anger, Delusion, Deconstruction
“You’ve got to learn to taste your own vomit and delight in it.”
Woah, that is powerful.
Points to how we gotta learn to get dirty and into our own shit and learn how to work through it. Brilliant advice.
40:50 Fault: Guilt Vs Responsibility – “You Kicked Your Dog at 11, killed your mommy at 12 o’clock”
How as Westerners steeped in monotheistic traditions (i.e Judaism, Christianity, Islam) we are taught that we should feel guilty or shameful when we’ve done something “wrong”.
She talks about taking responsibility but not feeling guilty over things you’ve done wrong…hard to get, but very powerful.
43:40 “You Can Learn to like problems like you like ice cream”
Probably my favorite line in the whole thing, and one that I now use as a daily affirmation which I’ve changed to “I am learning to love challenges and obstacles like I love ice cream.”
And yes I really do love ice cream.
Here’s a shorter video but also great of Robina giving an overview of Buddhism. Nicely produced.