“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~ Lao Tzu
I like to read a few words (from people wiser than me) in my yoga classes, right after Savasana.
I read this quote to my yoga class last month.
Hanging on the coat-tails of Lao Tzu like that, I may have sounded like some kind of enlightened change-surfing guru—someone who rides those waves of life like a pro and preaches to everyone else about how to do it. I mean, I’m the yoga teacher, right? Being flexible and nimble, yet strong and steady at the same time is what I’m supposed to be rocking, right?
No. Not so much.
I needed to hear that reminder more than anyone in the class that day.
Four days later, I stood on the driveway in a small village in Oxfordshire—the one where I used to live—outside the only house my youngest son has known and the only one my eldest can remember, and said goodbye. I hugged friends, neighbours, my cat, cried, laughed, took some last minute photos, climbed into the spaces between carseats and luggage and children and broken hearts, waving as cheerfully as I could, and headed for London Gatwick airport. (My cat is now my neighbour’s cat. Don’t worry, we didn’t just leave him there.)
By the next day, we had changed addresses, seasons, and hemispheres.
When we stepped through the sliding doors at King Shaka airport in Durban, we left, on the other side of those doors, years of longing for home whilst simultaneously and doggedly building another version of it in the UK. Months of life-replanning, finance-rejiggering, stuff-packing, stuff-selling, paperwork-organising, back-and-forth-to-the-South-African-embassy-ing, and goodbye-ing led up to us walking through those doors—but it still felt so sudden.
Just like that, we were back where we started.
Despite craving this change for years, after the excitement of homecoming passed, there it was—that part of me still clinging to what I knew before. To the familiar. Wanting to go back to that other home I’d built for myself.
Now I am home, in a familiar place, yet feeling strangely homeless and foreign. I mean, I’m not on the streets, I’m not a refugee (and I don’t claim to know anything about that particular type of suffering), but my heart is adrift.
It’s been a month since we moved and I have spent it alternating between fighting this feeling of groundlessness, and reminding myself daily to accept it. I feel like I’m being dumped, daily and repeatedly, by six-foot waves that just keep on coming.
I’ve sat (almost) every day, breathing, watching, noting, returning, again and again, to my breath. I’ve done the “Change” meditation pack on my Headspace app. I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön. I’ve been using everything I have in my toolbox to build a surfboard solid enough for me to ride this change, but it’s been collapsing or flying out from under me almost as quickly as I can get back in the water, and I haven’t been able to figure out what I’m doing wrong.
I am most definitely not rocking this “let things flow naturally forward” thing with any level of grace. Tears, breakdowns, near-divorce-level arguments…and that’s just the last 24 hours. (We’ve since made up and decided divorce is not the answer after all.)
All this time I’ve been trying to “fix” the way I feel by meditating more, being more aware of my thinking, remembering to breathe consciously when panic sets in, reminding myself of the weight of my feet on the ground when I get that sensation of falling, of crashing into these waves of change. That emptiness in the pit of my stomach when everything just feels “wrong” and I’m weightless, suspended, with nothing to grab onto, my surfboard flying through the air.
But, in trying to cure myself of these symptoms, which are a result of this direct experience of uncertainty—of being right in the breakers—instead of riding change, I’m actually forcing it. Resisting the waves—so damn hard.
I’m feeling things I’d really prefer to avoid: extremely uncomfortable, challenging, and disturbing things. The kinds of things we meditate (and medicate) against. We think of them as bad, as a sign of some kind of failure. Frustration, anger, confusion, impatience, loneliness, sadness, fear…
In trying to fix, avoid, understand, or get the better of these things, we’re only fighting the rip currents. One of the best ways to get out of these, as any good surfer knows, is to relax until the current dissipates, then swim back to shore. How can we relax though when it feels so damn scary?
We can witness.
Witness the change, the current, and our reaction to it, directly—in the present moment.
The more this sinks into our way of being—just relaxing into whatever our experience is right now, rather than what we would like it to be—the more familiar and comfortable we can get with resting in this uncertainty; the easier we find it to let go. To fly through the air. To go with the current. To lean into the waves. To ride them. To let them dump us sometimes. To trust that there really is no ground to come crashing into. To trust that we’ll come back up for air.
There is no steady, comfortable, comforting place called “home” that we can return to. None outside the space in our own hearts and minds, which we’ve never really left in the first place. We have only forgotten this is where we live. And this space is change, is life, itself.
So witness. Witness it all: the pain, the resistance, the grief, the fear, the hope.
Do nothing about it.
Stop trying so damn hard to swim, to fly, to surf. Only witness, and keep falling, diving, floating. Lean into the waves that crash over you. Ride them. And yes, sometimes, let them dump you. Roll with the currents, and just keep getting back on the board.
After a time, the falling begins to feel more like freedom. And we realise we are one with the waves themselves, and we start surfing, like pros.
The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground. ~ Chögyam Trungpa
Author: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Author’s own
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