“Change is the only constant in life.” ~ Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher
There are endless songs, poems, stories, and art pieces dedicated to exploring the concept of change.
It is the most persistent aspect to our existence (human or otherwise), and yet it seems to always be the most difficult.
Change itself is a vast subject. It encapsulates everything from changing our clothes and sheets, to moving across the country or losing a loved one. There are the personal decisions we make to enact change, and then there are the external surprise circumstances that inflict change. The variables of change are never the same, except for the fact that we can expect it virtually all the time, at any time.
If there’s anything the pandemic collectively taught us, it’s that plans are never guaranteed. As an outcome of that incredibly disruptive and difficult time, we may have learned how to become more flexible when envisioning our futures, along with some tricks for how to handle unexpected interruptions.
For the sake of making those lessons and tools more conscious, it’s worth naming a few of the things that help and a few things that hinder our ability to embrace change—particularly so that when things come out of the blue and (seemingly) throw us off course, we know a little bit of what we can expect from ourselves and the internal resources we can rely on.
One of beautiful things about change is that it’s occurring all the time, which means we have ample opportunities to explore our reactions and responses and how to formulate a stronger sense of self as we navigate the shifting waters.
No matter what type of change we’re experiencing, whether it be large or small, painful or pleasurable, change asks us to be flexible, resilient, and trusting. Flexible, not only in the way we might be utilizing our time and energy, but also flexible in our mindset and in our emotional availability. Resilient, in the sense that we find the way back to our center with ease. And trusting in ourselves, our inner strength, and our ability to take care all while not necessarily knowing the outcome of what’s to come.
A simple way to apply flexibility when change arises is to adopt a learner’s mindset. So often we’re asked to keep ourselves together, to know all the answers, and to be in charge of who we are and where we’re going. Even if we don’t immediately know the answer, we can still be autonomous because we have these handy devices and Wi-Fi networks that can provide any answers we might need. But that sort of expectation that we place on ourselves strips us of the opportunity to learn, uncover new possibilities, and discover connections with others.
When we adopt a learner’s mindset, specifically in the midst of change, we loosen our grip. Our minds and bodies are allowed to open because we humbly step into a place of not knowing, not having all the answers, and allowing ourselves to be open to help and support.
This allows us to recognize all the ways in which we’re supported outside of ourselves and gives us the opportunity to release the anxiety and stress that comes with having to do it all on our own. The outcome may be less controlled because it’s no longer just in our hands, but it is possible that we come to a result that’s even better than we have imagined in the first place.
Which brings me to a simple way to tap into our sense of resilience. Once we’ve loosened our grip on the expectations and the outcome of our experience, we can allow ourselves to shift from the mindset of inconvenience, reduction, or entrapment to the mindset of possibility.
When we release the tension of control, our scarcity mindset dissolves as well and suddenly endless opportunities can find their way to us. Rather than only seeing one or two outcomes, we can realize how many options we have ahead of us.
This also alleviates the stress of the experience because our energy shifts to being more open, expansive, and trusting. We see how much support we already have and how much we can open ourselves to. This mindset allows our nervous systems to relax from the fight-or-flight response so that we can settle more easily into a state of equilibrium. As we make our choice for how to respond to the change that is occurring, we make our decisions from a place of ease and connection, rather than fear and doubt.
What I’m suggesting above is in no way saying that we should spiritually bypass our difficult emotions or diminish the pain that sometimes comes with change. What I am suggesting is that once we’ve honored these difficult aspects and become awake and honest about the fullness of the experience, the next step is to accept that this is the reality of our experience. Then, to make it easier on ourselves, we can apply flexibility and tap into our resilience in order to keep going and even find a little joy.
There are moments in which change can feel exceptionally overwhelming. When it feels like we’re just keeping our head above water, or when it feels impossible to even take a full breath. When we’re in the throes of grief, or when there are too many variables out of our control, we might feel like even the ground itself isn’t safe to walk on.
These are the moments in which we’re asked to take some of the biggest leaps of faith. To trust ourselves beyond any depth we’ve been able to in the past. To release control completely, with the knowledge that somehow we will be taken care of.
It is in these instances in my own life that I’ve relied on the simple phrase “ground yourself in uncertainty,” meaning feel the support of your body, your breath, and the people you trust the most. If nothing else can be certain, you can always rely on your heart beat, your inhales and exhales, and the love and support of those closest to you.
No matter what happens, what change or confusion or doubt you might be experiencing now, know that there is always another side, a flow to the ebb, and everything that goes down must always come up. These are the laws of the universe, and so long as we give ourselves the space and compassion to be honest with ourselves and our experience while in the depths of the chaos, we will make our way through. In fact, we will come out on the other side in one piece and we will be stronger.
In yogic philosophy there is an understanding about the Heart Chakra. In Sanskrit its name is Anahata, which translates to “unhurt,” “unstruck,” or “that which is unbroken.” It is believed that the soul of every human resides in the heart and that no matter what is experienced in the material world, the heart and the soul can never be broken. It may become wounded, but as Rumi said, “The wound is where the light enters you.”
A last note
There are times when we’re in the midst of change when we might encounter two minds: the mind of the past that is being released, and the mind of the future that is being cultivated. In a single experience, we might even encounter two opposing thoughts that arise at the same time—how we might have reacted before versus how we’re choosing to react now—highlighting this evolution in our consciousness. When this happens it can be an unexpected and delightful surprise that encourages us to continue trusting ourselves and our new direction.
I believe that when we have those experiences, it is our subconscious showing us how clearly we can change from the inside. That there are always many perspectives to one situation and that we always have the capacity to grow and refine ourselves. I believe this is us holding a mirror up ourselves and saying, “Look at how beautiful change can be.”
I recently heard someone describe watching a person’s heart beat on a monitor. They said, “You’ll notice that it’s always pulsing up and down, and up and down. It is only when that pulse goes flat that a person is no longer alive.”
Change is what makes us alive. It’s what propels our internal rhythms, systems, and functions to operate in health and with vitality, consistently eliminating waste and absorbing and applying nourishment. It is the cycle of our breath. It’s what allows the seasons to flow into one another and for generations to evolve over the course of thousands of years. To embrace change is to embrace life, and isn’t that what we’re all being asked to do?
Consider a recent change you experienced in your life that was sudden or unexpected. Think about what was being asked of you in order to accommodate this change and remember the initial emotions that arose.
>> How did you respond in the moment when you found out this shift was happening, and what were the emotions that you experienced?
>> What about your response tells you about the strengths you leverage in shifting situations?
>> What about your response tells you about difficulties you may have in shifting situations?
>> How did your emotions guide you in this moment?
>> Looking back, how did you or how could you have applied the tools of flexibility, resilience, and trust in order to find grace through the change?
>> How will you apply these three tools moving forward?