Humans rarely like change unless it favors us in some way. Every moment of change is met with an initial gaze of distrust, we subconsciously ask ourselves… Does this change threaten me? Does this change benefit me? Does this change bother me in any way? Assessing every micro-change like this is energy consuming. No wonder we can get so tired or shut down.
Responses to Change
One response is a kind of weariness with life, a sense of closure through exhaustion, becoming a change hermit where we withdraw, maybe into a safe space, into TV fantasy, into our own echo chamber in social media, or into some spiritual practice where in our minds everything is safe and good.
Another response is to build suits of armor whether that is muscular, adipose tissue, styles of behavior that block out others and seek to build walls of protection, or of course – to build solid walls, castle walls, fortress walls – to create an impervious ghetto of stasis.
I guess we could also become so immune to change that we dry up our heart, cut it out and put it somewhere for safe keeping. We just forget where. This forgetting shrivels our emotional response so much that the icy winds of change no longer touch us – we are too dry. When the winds touch others we no longer notice, the eyes and the heart have long ago lost contact with each other.
These painful ways of relating to change appear to offer safety, yet they are actually just living death. Instead, let’s dispense with these uncultured and terrified responses to change. Let’s get heroic!
What’s Wrong with Change?
Well firstly, it is volatile. It is like fire, flickering one way then sending out violent arcs of red-orange intensity in the opposite direction. Volatile implies explosive intensity, catastrophe, the fact that things will get worse, however you measure that.
Change is like water. Occasional dreamy moments of foresight aside, beautiful as they are, precognition rarely works continuously. Change, like water, runs in whatever direction the flow goes. There is no telling which way change will go. Those people who sell precognition, for example stock market traders, the evidence is that they are almost always wrong because change is utterly unpredictable.
Another problem with change is how we understand it. Depending on our perspective we could see the change in so many contrasting ways.
For example, we may consider that some canine excrement on the pavement that we just stepped in is vile, disgusting and how dare the dog owner not pick it up! From the perspective of a fly, it’s a free restaurant. Which is true?
Both points of view. So is it that only our point of view counts? Are we going to live so wrapped up in our own perspective that we cannot see or feel anything else? Then we are back at square one – living death.
Change is Volatile
Change is always ambivalent. Even in this moment of subjective discomfort I might experience, could easily lead to some subjective delight in the next moment. And so, change is volatile, uncertain and ambivalent.
Then there is this imbalanced world that we inhabit, where billionaires own more than whole nations of underfed, nutritionally deprived and thirsty beings. Where these billionaires swan around in private jets oblivious (or ignorant) to climate change, starvation, or the consequences of the process by which they attained their billions, and the suffering that it has caused. That’s right – the world is utterly unfair, unjust and imbalanced.
The most important thing we can do – however unfair and unjust – is to accept that’s how change – aka impermanence – is. We accept that it is volatile, always changing, uncertain, mostly unpredictable, ambivalent and accept that we inhabit an imbalanced, unjust and unfair world. This is reality.
Everything is Impermanent
The next thing we have to accept about change is that we are going to die. This nervous system experience, this subjective experience of me is going to end, and I don’t know how or when.
When we look into the eye of impermanence, we can name it is as radical and totally scary shit! This acceptance is the beginning of any transformational endeavor. We start with how it is.
This is why it is heroic to dance with change, unarmored, unprotected, held only in the embrace of space-time.
It is heroic to tremble in the face of relentless uncertainty evolving itself as our life.
It is heroic to stay open, compassionate and fully living as connection with all the elements, with all the living beings around you, with all the possibilities of ever present death, and to keep laughing, keep smiling, and keep loving.
It is heroic to become a monster of love, rather than a monster of contraction and fear. Such monstrosity is commonplace and takes no courage, just habits of closure and self-protection.
Skills for Coping with Change
What skills does such a hero/heroine need? Awareness, acceptance, compassion and courage.
How can such a warrior develop these skills? First feel the livingness that you claim is yours – your own life – and give it back, give it back to living-ness, living-ness which also includes the recycling of dying and the letting go this entails. It was never yours, no matter what the illusions of independence insist.
Feel this livingness by diving deep into the fleshy awareness that this body-mind is – some people call this meditation. I recognize the value of meditative depth, yet the only reason to practice is to land in change as change, to get used to it, to keep laughing in the face of impermanence when you are also impermanence, impermanence laughing at itself.
Use the breath to find ever deeper inseparability, ever deeper connection. Start at the level of the breath and take it to the muscular feel of this body as the earth, the fluidity of the rivers, the power of fire and the deep softness and potential violence of wind.
Take it deeper into the atomic level and then the quantum level and land as the quantum field and whatever is beyond, through and as it. Know yourself-no-self.
Let the breath guide you. Let life and breath guide you home to your no-self as the inconceivable and radiant delight you always were.
This article first appeared at the author’s blog ChristopherGladwell.com and is used with permission.
Christopher Gladwell is a Yoga Master, a Certified Breathworker, and the Founder of Holokinesis. He has taught internationally for twenty years around Europe, Africa and Asia.
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