Daoism teaches us how to embrace change.
Whether it’s a break-up, letting go of a first love, welcoming a new president, getting angry about an electrical outage, or a flat tire—we love to hate change.
We all want the things we count on in our daily lives to stay the same—because when things stay the same, we’re comfortable. We are comfortable with knowing, and less comfortable with not knowing.
This longing for comfort came into being evolutionarily as a survival mechanism—the things we knew kept us alive. For much of human history, knowing where to forage for food, what berries were safely edible, and where the jaguars hung out were critical to our survival as a species.
This is why we develop bad habits.
Why? Because there’s a comfort in sameness, even when we see how our habits are harming us. We know that engaging in our vice of choice will give us a certain kind of experience, and knowing we can always track back to that experience is reassuring.
Change represents the unknown. The unknown can be pretty scary because we don’t know what will happen. We want to control our risks—we want to ensure a positive result.
In a way, that tendency makes sense, but what often happens is that we become so stuck in the realm of the known that we shut ourselves off from the natural unfolding of life.
You see, change is embedded in the very fabric of our existence. Everything changes, and everything dies. When we attempt to avoid this truth, we run into trouble. We get out of alignment with the universe when we attempt to control everything by keeping them the same.
If I have anything close to a religious belief, it would be along the lines of Daoism: the idea that there is a balance between opposite forces in everything from nature to human conception, and that harmony is found on the border between opposites. When we cease to identify as one opposite or the other, we are able to flow between them with an effortless and powerful finesse.
This is when we align with the universe.
We need certain things to stay the same in order to know what’s going on, and we need certain things to change so we can evolve and grow.
I see people who are so used to sameness that they can’t stand any sort of change. I have also met a few people who are so opposed to things staying the same that they force themselves into a constant state of flux, and as a result feel little sense of responsibility for those around them.
I think we should embrace change so we can continually develop ourselves and not get stuck in negative patterns, but also to maintain a sense of sameness and normality so we remain organized and oriented.
It seems as though younger people are more keen on resisting sameness, whereas older people tend to be more keen resisting change. This is why younger people are more likely to be liberal and older people are more likely to be conservative.
This is actually the fundamental difference between liberalism and conservatism; liberalism keeps society open to change while conservatism attempts to maintain its structures.
As it is with society, an individual must strike a balance between embracing change and holding onto the old ways to live the most meaningful and fulfilling life.
Change is a natural part of life, but it is also important to honor the parts of ourselves that want to keep things the same, because it is an essential aspect of who we are.
Self-awareness is important in honing this balance. The more capable we are at truly looking at ourselves, observing what is happening within us without the ego rearing its ugly head, then we will have a better sense of what we need. Sometimes we need more order, and sometimes we need more chaos. We can only find balance if we know what we need.
It is a feeling. If we feel stuck, then do something spontaneous. If we feel unstable, then find something consistent. Introduce the opposite in order to find balance. Life is a constant balancing act; a perpetual adjustment. When we think we have found the right way to be, the universe smacks us in the face. It’s far too dynamic to anticipate, so we must always be fine-tuning how we move through the world.
Balance is pursued through self-awareness and the introducing of opposites.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Vladislav Muslakov/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Callie Rushton