Types of resolution


When something troubles us, it’s natural and healthy for us to seek resolution. And there are different ways to find this resolution.

It can be a resolution of the troubling situation. Our first impulse is often to resolve it in that way, and that’s healthy.

It can be a resolution through befriending our experience of the situation. This can happen through reframing. Through various heart-centered practices such as tonglen, ho’oponopono, prayer and so on. Through resting with the sensation and imagination components of the experience. And it can happen through inquiring into how the mind creates its experience of the situation – the problem and the one faced with the problem.

It can be a resolution through seeing that experiencing it as a problem is not in itself a problem. It’s OK. We don’t need to fight it or make that too into a problem.

It can be a resolution through seeing more clearly how the mind creates its experience of the situation, and what that experience really is. This can happen through looking at the sensations, images, and words making it up. And it can happen through recognizing it all as happening within and as presence (aka awareness, Spirit).

Each of these is valid and important. With many things in life, each is required for us to experience a fuller sense of resolution. If the first one does not seem possible, perhaps because it’s about a situation in the past or a person who is no longer here, we can still find a sense of resolution through the three next ones.


Fear of resolution


It’s common to fear resolution, even of what we deeply wish would resolve. It could be a long-standing illness, emotional issue, painful identities or beliefs, or being unenlightened.

So it’s good to look at that fear. Notice it. Allow it. Befriend it. Look at how the mind creates its experience – using sensations and imaginations – of the fear, what it fears, and the one threatened.

What do I fear would happen if this resolves? What’s the worst that can happen? Is there something desirable I won’t have anymore?

Do I experience a threat or a problem with it resolving?

If I could push a button and have it resolve completely and immediately, what would stop me from pushing it? What would make me hesitate?

And to make sure we look at both sides:

Is there a problem if it stays? What’s the worst that can happen if it stays?

Imagine you know it will stay forever. What emotions, feelings, and thoughts come up?

And then explore the components of this sense of threat and anything related to it. The sensations, mental images, and words making it up.




If I am honest, I see that the reason I explore these things is I want some form of resolution.

This resolution can come in many forms.

I can resolve my relationship to whatever bothers or disturbs me. From seeing it as an enemy or a problem, I can befriend it. This in itself is a very real form of resolution. There is a sense of relief here.

There are also many variations here, for instance, I may see that an emotion, reaction, or pain comes from a wish to protect me, and that it comes from a deep caring and love. I may also dialog with it and listen to its perspective and experience so I better understand it and have empathy for it. I may rest with it. And more.

I can inquire into how my mind creates its experience of it. This tends to release or soften the charge in it, which also can be experienced as a very real form of resolution. I get to see that what seemed so solid and real is actually created by my mind through combining sensations (lending charge) and imaginations (lending a story).

It can be recognized as presence. Whatever bothers me is actually presence itself. It’s presence taking this particular appearance. It’s substance and what it’s made up of is presence. The bothering thing and what it bothers (me) both happen within and as presence.

Each of these is experienced as a form of resolution, and the sense of resolution goes deeper if two or three of these come together and are included.

Of course, seeking resolution often comes from seeing something as a problem or an enemy, not having seen how it’s created by the mind, and not recognizing it as presence. That in itself is something that can be explored in these ways so there is a sense of resolution about even wishing for resolution. Seeking resolution can become a bit less compulsive this way, more gentle, and coming more clearly from kindness.


Different forms of resolution


Most of us experience a wish for resolution. It seems almost built in.

And that makes sense.  I assume that for our ancestors – both human and those before – the drive to seek resolution benefited them. It helped them survive and pass on that particular trait.

We can find resolution in several different ways:

In a conventional sense, by taking care of our life and situations we find ourselves in.

At the story level, by reframing, question our thoughts, look at it from other perspectives, see that what we thought happened didn’t, and so on. (The Work, cognitive therapy.)

At the basic perception level. For instance by looking for a deficient or inflated self, a threat, a compulsion or similar. Seeing how our minds create these stories and experiences. And perhaps being unable to find what we are looking for outside of images, words, and sensations, and that those are not “it” either. (Living Inquiries.)

Through meeting our experience with kindness. Finding love for our experience, for our hurt, pain, anger, grief, sadness, wounds, trauma, discomfort, physical pain, and more.

By resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow. Resting with whatever is here in our experience. Notice the space it’s happening within. Shifting from thinking to noticing. This is a form of kindness towards our experience, and ourselves. It also helps us find ourselves as that we already are, that which all experience happens within and as.

There is something else we can do to find a sense of resolution. We can include our (very human) desire for resolution, and perceived threats in not finding it, in what we explore using the approaches above.

We can question our beliefs about resolution, and any scary stories of what may happen if we don’t find it. We can see if we can find a thing called “resolution”, or lack of resolution, a threat, or a command to find resolution. We can meet this in us with kindness, and find love for it. We can rest with it, in kind presence.

We may still seek resolution, including in the very ordinary and everyday ways. And now with more ease. And less sense that it has to happen or has to happen a certain way. (Less compulsively.)




Rumination. It has a bad reputation in the psychology world, but where would we be without it?

Whenever is unresolved and important enough for us, attention goes there. Again and again.

It is an invitation to find a resolution, even if it is to a past event that only lives on in our minds.

We may find a resolution through talking about it with others. Especially if they don’t agree with us and offer a new and fresh viewpoint.

We may find a resolution through tiring of our old and habitual ways of approaching it, and finding another that works a little better. Such as taking responsibility for our own choices, actions, and how we relate to our inner and outer situation. Or exploring the beliefs behind it and finding what is more true and honest for us. Or even welcoming and allowing the stress that comes from it, with some compassion for ourselves.

I wouldn’t be surprised if rumination is not built into us by evolution.

If we stubbornly insist on approaching the topic of rumination the same way, then rumination is not so helpful for us.

But if we tire and change our approach, or are receptive to a new approach from the beginning, then rumination can be very helpful.

It is one of the ways we find resolution. Learn. Grow. Embrace more of our humanity.


Finding resolution here as well


A part of our life is the experience of some things not being fully resolved.

And one way of working with it is to resolve it here, for instance through visualizations, acting out, or dialogue.

It is quite simple, maybe even so simple it sounds silly.

Take the unresolved situation. Stage it and include the important characters. Allow it to play itself out and find a full resolution.


Aspects of resolution


For all of us, at least until awakening to realized selflessness, there are times when old patterns come up, there is a definite identification with them, and there is a deep wish for some sort of resolution.

This happened for me yesterday, and by the end of the day I found myself in a coffee shop writing down what I know, from experience, about resolution, and how to relate to these recurrent patterns. Looking over the list, I found two broad categories which (it so happens…!) correspond to the two broad categories of Buddhist meditation practice: samata and vipassana, or calm abiding and insight, or natural meditation and inquiry.

Dropping resistance (Samata)

This is about dropping resistance to experience, including resistance itself. To allow the field of seeing and seen, the whole tapestry, to arise and rest in itself as it is here and now.

This allows the field to recognize itself as a field, and the sense of I and Other within the field becomes more transparent, fades, and may even fall away in a more complete way.

There is a release from being blindly caught up in ideas and interpretations, of the whole story we weave around I as a separate entity, and so a release from much of the suffering created by this.

This field may even recognize itself as awake emptiness and form, and everything arising as awake emptiness and form, which takes even more of the charge out of whatever arises. It becomes less substantial, more of a dream, passing images.

This is the transcending of any issues in our human life, by seeing them as expressions of the field, which is inherently absent of I and Other, and as no other than awake emptiness and form.

It is the ultimate yang approach to dealing with irresolvable problems: transcend, and include. Transcend, find yourself as Big Mind instead of just this human self, realize that there is no separate I anywhere in all of it. And then include all form as Big Mind, include your human life, life your human life within this new context, now with a sense of ease and released from identification.

In a way, it is an escape, but it is an escape from a temporary misidentification to an immediate recognition of what we always and already are: the field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form. This field of everything arising, which is inherently absent of an I anywhere, absent of I and Other, and where the only I is as the field as a whole, as an I without an Other.

Learning from (Vipassana)

Then there are the many ways of learning from problems…

I can find the gifts in the situation. What are the gifts of loss, failure, pain, disease? I can find a deeper empathy with others, a deepening compassion for all beings, seeing that we are all in the same boat. I can become more familiar with surrender. I can become more familiar with impermanence. I can discover my own beliefs and identities, and explore ways to surrender these beliefs and identities. I can find a deeper motivation for self-inquiry in its many forms, including those that lead to realized selflessness.

I can open my heart to what arises, including to myself and others who suffer from a similar situation, or any suffering at all. We are all in the same boat here. As long as there is a misidentification, we suffer. And through my own suffering, to seeing and feeling into it, I can open my heart and deepen my compassion, understanding and empathy for others. The more intense my own suffering, the more it can break open my heart, if I only allow it (or can’t resist it anymore.)

I can use it to find myself in the other. To see and feel, becoming more deeply and intimately familiar with in myself what I see in the other (if another person is involved.) And through this, to awaken love for it (hold it in love), in myself and the other.

I can allow the symptoms and experiences to unfold, following the trail of crumbs, allowing it to unfold and harvesting the nutrients in it through for instance Process Work, some variation of active imagination, or similar approaches.

I can learn about impermanence, become more familiar and intimate with it, and with the (freeing) consequences of seeing and feeling into impermanence.

Everything in the world of form is in flux, always fresh, new and different. Seasons, this , youth and health, success and failure, fame and infamy, art, science, nations, cultures, civilizations, the Earth itself, this solar system, this galaxy, the universe itself, it is all in flux, it all comes and goes, it is all impermanent.

Seeing and feeling that all is impermanent places my own life in a different and wider context. It means that we are all in the same boat, it is the great equalizer.

Impermanence also means that any fixed beliefs, any fixed and limited identities, any holding on to anything, brings suffering. And if everything in the world of form, including this human self, is flux, then who or what am I? I seem to not come and go in that way. What is it that does not come and go?

Impermanence allows me to explore surrender in all its many forms. Surrender of beliefs, identities, wants and wishes, who I take myself to be, anything I (think I) know.

The gifts of impermanence then includes seeing that we are all in the same boat, loosening my grip on beliefs and identities, and nudging me towards awakening – finding myself as that which does not come and go, and that which comes and goes.

I can use it to explore the many aspects of emptiness. As mentioned above, I can explore the transitory nature of anything finite in space and time. Is anything fixed?

I can try to find the boundary between seeing and seen. Where is this boundary? Is the content of awareness anything other than awareness itself? Is form anything other than awake emptiness? (See below.)

Who or what is experiencing? Is there a separate I here? (See below.)

I can use it as material for self-inquiry. First and simplest, and related to the dropping of resistance: Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? And then…

What do I need to let go of to find peace with this? Which beliefs and identities do I need to let go of to find peace with this situation? Who or what do I need to be to find peace with it? What do I need to let go of to find peace with it, even if it would never change?

What are my beliefs around this situations? Are they true? What are their consequences? Who or what would I be without them? What are the grains of truth in their reversals? (The Work.)

Who or what is experiencing? To whom or what is this happening? Am I the always changing content of experience? These sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, thoughts? What is not changing? Am I what is not changing, this awareness, the seeing of it? If so, where is the boundary of I as seeing and Other as seen?