No solution. Can’t fix it.

Last week I had coffee with a friend who’s living under a cloud of uncertainty about his job; the company he works for is embroiled in complex, very public litigation with a competitor that could cause his company to go out of business or merge, with radically unpredictable consequences for him and for his co-workers. The fatigue was etched on his face—he’s worn out by worry– “I just want this to end, to go away!” he said.

No solution. Can’t fix it.

Later, I spent some time with another friend who’d recently been fired from his job, and he was manic, absolutely bewildered. He’d been taken by surprise, and to make matters worse, his old boss was seemingly out to get him, even after the fact.  Bewildered. Be-wildered. Transported back to wilderness, to deep shadows and mortal danger.

No solution. Can’t fix it.

I could go on. Another friend entering year three of cancer therapy, a relative who underwent a life saving transplant operation, only to face intrusive therapies for the rest of his life. My own battles with health and my own peculiar psychology. The list is long, all with one thing in common, whether it’s my own predicaments or those of others–

No solution. Can’t fix it.

Maybe it’s age, but it does seem like the hallway is narrowing, like fewer things are new, more things are breaking down. I can be completely empathetic for my friends in distress, but that’s not what they want, and it’s not what I want for them. They want, I want, whatever it is that has them feeling cornered to stop.

We want it fixed.

When the vice begins to tighten and fear arises, space collapses and time stretches. We feel crushed, and we’re certain it will last forever.

The Shambhala teachings point out a couple of important truths here- first, that this “crush” is an essential part of the human deal (it happens on some level pretty much all the time to each of us); and second, that there is no other place to go, no place to flee to.

The truth of our lives is that there’s no way out. Fear of death, of loss, is with us from our first in-breath. Each of us will eventually lose everything and everyone we’ve ever cherished, and our “job” is somehow to be Ok with that.

Ultimately, it’s the very inescapability of our predicament that contains its own answer. From minor irritation, to the loss of a life’s work, to the loss of a life’s love, to our own moment of death, this is the ground of being human. Like it or not, we’re staying. And yes, this can indeed suck.  Pain is real, we do age and die and encounter innumerable challenges along the way. But there’s a profound element of choice in how we react to these challenges, how much of the drama we write ourselves.

Happiness and comfort aren’t the same thing. Maybe joy can permeate pain. Perhaps great suffering and joy can (must?) co-exist.


The core Shambhala teaching of Basic Goodness, that we are all basically good, sufficient unto the task, that all of this sacred world is basically good, suggests that right here, even in the midst of our worst predicaments, magic can still arise. If we can stop struggling to control the every fact of our lives, even for a moment, space and luminance can emerge.

This is the essential truth and magic of the world, that it doesn’t come out “right,” that there’s no “right,” that in fact, there’s no “out,” there’s only this; and the more we can stop fighting and begin to flow with “this,” the more our experience of the world and of our lives might be transformed.

I heard a story once- a great Tibetan teacher was asked what he thought a fully awakened being actual experiences. He said “impermanence and emptiness all the time.”

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with a 92-year old woman named Ann and fell completely in love with her. We traded life stories—hers was longer. I asked her, from her limb “at the top of the tree,” what “really matters?”  She smiled. People, she said, your people matter — other than that, more and more I think that not much else really matters.

We care for each other. Each of us is alone and we’re all in this together. We offer our hearts and our compassion, our tonglen practice, and we share in each other’s pain for as long as we’re here.

This is what matters. The rest is just story.

No solution.  Can’t fix it.

3 thoughts on “No solution. Can’t fix it.

  1. Jeff,

    This is a great post – interesting points raised and valuable wisdom to learn. It helps me to remember not to worry about things unnecessarily, not to seek for things to be “fixed”, but to know the “crush” is part of being human, and to experience this journey in life in all its glory, rawness, joy, pain, etc.

    It makes me wonder too about whether we must experience pain to also experience joy -that one is necessary to appreciate the other. These are strong emotions, and without them at either end of the spectrum (the yin and yang?), maybe we would be just floating along in some sort of in between/middle/neutral emotion.

    I love the idea that the more “we stop struggling to control” and “flow”, “the more our experience of the world and of our lives might be transformed”.

    And that above all people are what matters.

    Great topic. Great ideas. Thanks.

    Lydia Kluge

    p.s. I am glad to have met you and our mutual friend Ann recently. I look forward to meeting again.

    • Lydia

      Carl Jung said that if we try to supress our sadness, we must simultaneously supress our joy. The invitation is to experience the full spectrum of what it feels like to be a human being.

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment so thoughtfully. I truly appreciate it.

      All the best–


  2. Jeff,

    Thanks. Your post is so comforting. Seems odd that the idea of “no escape” is a comfort rather than making us feel trapped but that understanding is so liberating. It’s like the Buddhist flow chart – “Can you do anything about it? – No – Don’t worry ; Yes – Don’t worry”. So “No solution. Can’t fix it.” Is a comfort.

    James G. Sindt
    PCMR Risk Manager
    435-901-3991 (c)

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