Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Art of Embracing Change

                                                                                                             Photo by Gala Darling 
             It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.~Charles Darwin

Change is a beautiful thing. Despite its innate beauty, it is one aspect of life that many people resist. Why is it that some people can easily embrace change while others will do everything in their power to prevent it? It all boils down to a matter of perception.
To be candid, I never really had any problems with change. On the contrary, I welcome change with open arms. To be fair, the reason for this is because I had a very tough childhood.
Going to school each day was like going to war. The only thing that kept me going during my tough times was hope and the knowledge that this torment would have to stop at some point.
Change, you see, was a savoir in my mind. As a result, I view change as a joyous thing. To not change and remain in stagnation is equivalent to death. Nothing can be accomplished by not moving forward.

Look at the human body. If you do not use your muscles, they decay. The human spirit is the same. If you do not grow and adapt, you will remain stuck and nothing of value can be accomplished when you are stuck.
So how does one learn to embrace change? You develop another way of viewing situations in your life. Each event that happens to you has the ability to move you forward or backward. The way you choose to view a situation determines your experience.
For example, some years ago, my mother passed away from terminal cancer. My husband and I moved into my parent’s house so I could take care of my mother. I was her caregiver for the last six months of her life. I was also present when she passed on. Watching someone that you love die is one of the most powerful experiences in life.

When the last breath is finally had, there is a mixed feeling of joy and pain. Joy that their suffering is over and yet immense pain that they are no more physically here.
I was very close to my mother and losing her was one of the most difficult experiences in my life. Not a day goes by when I don’t remember her. Not having a mother can be tough. Talk about change…one morning, I went from having two parents to only one. Not easy. Yet those six months and being present at her passing were two of the greatest gifts she gave me. Why?

Well, it was a great reminder that life, here on Earth is short. It also was a vivid reminder that when we pass on, we leave behind all the material possessions, our loved ones, money and so on. The only things we take with us are how we lived and what we learned.
To pass away knowing that one has lived well is a great achievement. I learned that at a young age and it is something that I am happy about. Yes, I wished I did not have to lose my mother to learn that lesson but so be it. That is how it happened.
I realize that death is an extreme example (yet an experience we all will encounter) to show you how to embrace change. So here are some lessons that I have learned on my journey so far:

1. Nothing Lasts Forever

In Eastern thought, one of the main teachings is that everything in life is impermanent. The good and the not so good do not last. Everything exists for a finite time. That is a fact of life. To resist that fact does no good because it does not change the reality.
When we accept the fact that nothing lasts forever, we are better equipped for the journey. Struggle occurs when we resist reality. So the best way to end the struggle is to embrace the impermanence in life. Enjoy the good times while you can and remember that the not so good times are just temporary. The light will appear at the end of the tunnel…it is bound to happen, you just need patience.

2. Wisdom Is Earned

There is no amount of money in the world that would convince me to go back in time. I am happy to be where I am and to have the knowledge that I have. I earned where I am and that wisdom was achieved through change and experience.
Nothing of value was ever achieved by remaining stagnant. It is impossible. We learn and grow due to change. When we are faced with a situation that forces a change of some kind, our awareness is inevitably expanded. Whether we follow through on it or not, depends on the person. Many people lament about change and doing that just keeps you stuck.
Wisdom is earned by learning to see the alternate possibilities of what surrounds you. When we view life through a narrow lens, our experience is narrow. But when you see the whole panorama, then wow…life is beautiful.

3. Learn To Let Go

Some people are meant to be in our lives for decades and others are meant to only stay for a while. This is one of the most challenging realities of life. Not everyone is willing to be with you as you proceed on your journey.
Some people may only like you when you have a certain title or look a certain way. That is okay. Let them be who they are but keep on being true to yourself.
If you lose some people as you proceed on with your life, wish them well and let them go with love.
When I decided to leave law, some of my family members stopped talking to me. It was tough. I was essentially disowned by some relatives. It was very painful but I realized that what they did said a lot about who they were. I have no respect for someone who is hung up on titles or appearance.
I value substance and I realized that this was a price I had to pay. I accepted it and moved forward. The interesting thing is that life sent me some amazing new friends who ended up being my family. So it worked out.
(Side note: those same relatives who disowned me have recently re-established communication with me. So see…things work out.)

4. Change Always Leads To Good

Here is the reality about change: even though it may occur due to a negative event it inevitably leads to something good.
Now this is a hard concept to absorb at first. I know that when I first learned it during my time at a monastic, I thought my teacher was crazy. But as I looked back at my life, I saw a common trend. When something “bad” happened, it always culminated in some type of realization or thought that took me to a better place.
Things happen to us for reasons. It is not our place to know exactly why they happened. Yes, we can own up to our mistakes but the ultimate existential reason as to why they happened is not fully revealed to us at all times.
Take for example, my bad childhood. Those were tough days but they made me who I am now and I love being me. Those painful experiences taught me compassion and tolerance. I think I am a better writer because of it.

In Conclusion….

The ability to go from resisting change to embracing change can happen. It may not happen overnight but that is okay. The next time you are faced with an experience which causes your reality to change, take a deep breath and take a step back.
Try to see the situation from outside the box. It is okay to be mad or frustrated. You are human after all. But once the emotions have calmed down, just remember that we are all works in progress. Rome was not built in a day…neither were you.
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