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“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watts
The chaos and heaviness of the world is palpable right now.
It’s easy to feel powerless to create change. And yet as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated:
“The only thing that is constant is change.”
We need to learn to ride the waves of change and to become our own change agents if we are to find peace, harmony, and balance in our rapidly changing world. Many spiritual traditions suggest that your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. It’s easy to look outside—blaming, complaining, and defending. It’s much harder to look inside! That’s not to say there aren’t challenging things we face in our world today. Yet, at the heart of it all, I’ve found it’s essential to take stewardship of our own little corner of that space. Often that’s the only thing we can do—and in doing so, it’s possible that we will see ripples in our lives, our relationships, and our world.
Becoming my own agent of change has helped me on so many levels—in body, mind, emotions, and spirit. It ‘s supported me on my evolutionary journey of healing and transformation—that’s a path we are all on!
The following are five steps that I’ve found to be essential to becoming your own change agent:
1. Accept responsibility for your own process of transformation and healing.
The most common definition of the word responsibility is “the quality or state of being responsible.” Sometimes this can be seen or felt as a burden, especially when we are struggling in some way. I had an “aha moment” with this word when I was about 20 years old. I had dropped out of school at the time but was visiting a friend at college and went to a psychology class with him. His professor defined responsibility as “the ability to respond.” Hearing those words impacted me in a profound way that has shaped my life for years to come.
I had dropped out of school at that time because I was suffering. I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and some of the symptoms such as fatigue and severe muscle pain caused me to be unable to attend classes consistently. At the time, Fibromyalgia was a relatively new diagnosis and there weren’t a lot of treatment options available. I learned quickly that if I was to regain my health and return to college, I needed to take “responsibility” for my own healing process.
Having that alternative definition of responsibility opened the door of possibilities for me. I began to explore holistic and alternative modalities so that I could become better able to respond to what I was experiencing and to actively create change in my life. Today, “being able to respond” continues to be a core concept in my personal life and in the work as a shaman and holistic facilitator. I believe it’s a key to unlocking the door to becoming your own agent of change.
2. Explore with openness and curiosity.
As I explored alternative and holistic modalities, I began to learn and grow in ways I never imagined possible. Carrying a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia for a young aspiring 20-something seemed like a burden, even a curse at times. And yet, it was this burden that led me to a path of self-exploration and discovery that defines who I am today. This pain and suffering ended up being some of the greatest blessings in my life and have led me to a life path I feel passionate about.
Some of the tools I explored were beneficial, others not so much, but either way, I was exploring and being curious. As I did, I began to know and understand myself on a much deeper level. When we begin, we often don’t know what will help us in creating change. It’s as if we try things that we learn. And what works for one person may not work for another. Being open and curious is such an important part of any change process. In meditation and other spiritual practices, it is often suggested to come to it with a “Beginner’s Mind”. This is a great way to approach life. When we explore with openness and curiosity, many new possibilities can emerge that we often cannot see when we hold onto the “I already know” paradigm.
3. Build your transformational toolbox and track your experiences and growth.
In my own healing journey and my work as a supporter of others for over 25 years, I’ve learned that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Even at different times, what helped at one point may no longer work at all. I learned this personally after going through a deep period of loss and grief. I had been a holistic practitioner and had a strong self-care plan, but after an intense period of change, I found that returning to the old familiar did not work. I needed to explore new ways of being and build a new toolbox.
Building your transformational toolbox can support you in changes you are currently making and in future changes, too. I’ve found that tracking experiences and growth helps to build your toolbox and to foster greater self-awareness. Having some type of journal, log, or list can become your personal guidebook to change. And no one can truly write this book but you! In “Five Steps To Mastering Anxiety,” I share an example of some ways to track your experiences and begin to build your transformational toolbox that may offer some ideas for you to explore.
4. Embrace discomfort and learn to roll with resistance.
What?! Yes, I’m inviting you to accept discomfort and to roll with resistance. This is a step that most of us don’t like or even want to consider. Particularly in western culture, we are bred to avoid pain and discomfort. And yet, it’s in this resistance, with all the energy it takes to “not listen or respond” to what we are really feeling and experiencing, that we are often taken off track or stuck in cycles of pain and suffering.
Turning toward instead of away is a vital component of any transformational process. By approaching change with the above three steps, you can become more conscious of resistance and awareness as it is arising. This is a foundation to working with it. I have found this particular step requires some deep inner work. That can be hard and scary. It’s not linear—we need to ride the waves as they arise and be willing to “look in the mirror.”
Personally, I have a number of tools to support this. I work with an inner child shamanic journey process that supports creating safety and security within. There are other techniques that help, but cultivating that inner relationship helps me to embrace discomfort and roll with resistance, which ultimately arises from within. Another tool is a Self-Empowerment Exercise, which helps to work with difficult situations, people, and feelings. Compassion practices including maitri, metta, or loving-kindness, and gratitude are also incredibly helpful in working with discomfort and resistance. It’s good to find your own way and also develop a good support network.
5. Remember, change is an ongoing process—be ready to adapt.
We are constantly changing, as is our world. Our cells are changing, our relationships are changing, and nature is changing in each and every moment. Yet, a natural human tendency is to somehow long for things to stay the same. This is where much of our pain and suffering arise. It is in acknowledging that we are always in a state of change and that we continually need to adapt that we can truly become our own agents of change.
Each step we take toward change in our personal lives and in our relationships creates the potential for transformation to occur in a greater way in our world. We are all connected through the beautiful, amazing web of life. At times, it may feel like we need the majority of people to change for our world to change; however, I feel much like Margaret Mead:
“A small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
How do you practice becoming your own agent of change? What are some of the tools in your transformational toolbox? Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections, and most of all, enjoy the journey!