All changes, even the most longed for, bring melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves. ~ Anatole France
Change is inevitable. While the Buddha maintained that suffering is central to life, Heraclitus asserted that change compels all movement in our dynamic universe. The Buddha might have added that suffering results directly from resistance to change. The relative ease with which we accept change―or do not accept it―determines our level of suffering. Suffering invariably arises when the external world does not reflect our version of how we think life should be.
When sudden change comes, we tremble with the shock until it wears off. Only then does the possibility exist for us to realize some part of us has been altered, or to mourn the loss of who we once were and will not be again. Both unexpected and unwanted changes shake up our self-concept, and as a result the door to personal transformation swings swiftly open. Grief over what has been lost can yield opportunity for an entirely new, and soul-appropriate way of being.
In developing the art of self-inquiry, we can regard with curiosity the assumptions we have made around what we have lost. Open questioning that stays clear of conclusiveness will begin to reveal patterns of confused thinking based more on learned prejudice, even against ourselves, than on actual experience. Self-questioning becomes a practice of gathering information to understand who we really are. In bringing awareness to an intensely emotional reaction to change, the recognition of hopes, desires and attachments sweeps away the veils from our hearts and minds for clearer viewing.
Once we recognize patterns and limitations in our thinking, it becomes possible to surrender the position we have taken regarding what we have lost, toward the ultimate end of decreasing our suffering. Without doing so, we are battling senselessly to change what cannot be undone. The ego, or the aspect of our psyche that tells us who we are, predictably assumes that its position is the only one, regardless of the suffering this causes for the person or soul that is giving it life—a classic example of a parasite mindlessly draining life from its host. Thus the ego’s voice is not to be trusted blindly, for its motivation is survival at all costs. Practices of observation, awareness and clarity diminish the ego’s tyrannical power over how we can view changes in our lives. When we investigate the motive of our reactions, especially chronic, emotionally-charged reactions, we move into the light of taking responsibility for our feelings, biases and convictions. Surrendering our position expands the vision around which we have been contracting. We compile clues and insights about our personality in order to see what lies beneath it. This self-knowledge can be uncomfortable, disappointing, revealing, transformative and exhilarating, all at the same time.
Hugh Prather, in Notes To Myself: My Struggle To Become A Person, tells us, “Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” Accepting change, with as much grace as possible, presents potential for becoming more than we could have imagined had change not visited. Giving ourselves the space to grieve our losses can give way to a profound sense of self. Change can be a soft whisper or a gale wind; both invite necessary growth and are a fact of life. We can remain fixed in our perspective and cling to our suffering or we can roll down the hill of change like a child, simply grateful for the slope.
Halli is a Spiritual Life Coach, a yoga and meditation teacher and owner of True Self Wellness. Told she may never walk again after a near-fatal car accident, Halli began an ongoing voyage for healing and insight. Her journey has led her into extensive studies of yoga and meditation, ancient and modern religions, spirituality, massage and energy work, creative movement and dance, psychology and esoteric sciences. She offers spiritual life coaching, yoga and meditation retreats and workshops worldwide. She is also a writer, a vocalist and songwriter, a visual artist and a dancer.