“That’s just not me.” That’s what the 19-year-old young man in my office said to me.
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard someone utter that phrase to me. I had heard it many times in many places and from many people. But somehow hearing it that day from a young man who had just been dealt such an awful blow, I finally truly heard it for the first time.
At the time, I accepted this statement as an accurate description of how he saw himself. But that moment stayed with me for a long time. How could this young man be so conclusive with so little life experience under his belt?
Perhaps what he meant to say was, “I like myself the way I am,” somehow denying the impact of the accident that left him blind in one eye. Was he implying that he didn’t want to change? Or was he protesting the direction his life was taking him.
Why do we choose to limit ourselves and why are we so adamant about avoiding change?
How comfortable are we with “change”? Don’t we believe that “varying our ways” too much implies that we are unstable?
Generally speaking, human beings are not very comfortable with change and we tend to harbor fears of instability. Yet the only thing that is constant in all of our lives is change. Our cells are being born and dying off by the thousands every minute. Though many of us maintain the same partner, the same job and the same clothes, with every passing second we are changing.
We could re-invent ourselves over and over again in the course of a normal day. Yet, for the most part, we choose to go in the other direction. We try to be consistent. We pride ourselves on being consistent. As a culture, we respect consistency. Could this emphasis on consistency be masking a deeply held fear of change?
The Buddhists tell us that the source of all suffering is “attachment.” Of course we get attached to many things; people, places, styles, procedures, beliefs, behaviors, music, TV shows, quiet, noise, matching colors, rules … the list goes on and on.
We get attached to things we feel connected with; so much so that they seem to become a part of our identity? We get attached to an idea of ourselves and perhaps it is our attachment to that idea that causes us to regard change as “undesirable.”
The opposite of change in our minds may often be security and comfort. If you stood on a street corner offering people a choice between “comfort and security” or “change,” do you think many people would choose “change”? Would you choose change?
How do you imagine your life might be different if you began to embrace change? Take a moment to consider where you might be if certain things had not changed. Where do you imagine you would be? Would you be back in that house you loved, with that person you loved, in that job you loved or would you be back in one of those images of your self that seemed so together?
In fact, there has never been a time you were closer to your dreams than you are right now!
It was changes that brought you to be right where you are in this moment; changes that were biological, voluntary or involuntary. Some changes came slowly; some came too quickly while we longed for others.
We begin life absolutely dependent and welcome the changes that bring us to the point of being independent, functioning beings. As a matter of fact, we often take these miraculous changes for granted. The changes connected with aging are not so welcome. Few of us would sing along with the old John Denver song “Turns me on to think of growing old.” But what if we could … wouldn’t it be wonderful to embrace the natural process of maturing, and maybe even death?
What about the other kinds of changes? Voluntary changes occur as a result of choices, intentions, and desires; involuntary changes represent circumstances that seem to happen to us without our consent, desire or control.
If you evaluated each of your experiences, in the light of how they contributed to your overall development, I believe you would agree that each brought benefit in some way with the gift of time. Especially changes that bring enormous loss can lead to monumental development of character, resilience, depth and integrity. I shudder at the thought of my own development having being arrested at any point along my path even though some changes were very painful.
The Buddhists offer a wonderful overarching resolution to the problem of attachment– the source of all suffering. Their remedy is the recognition of impermanence.
You do not have to become a Buddhist to accept this principal in your own life. All that is necessary is to attach yourself to the flow of experience and recognize the strength and beauty of your spirit that carries you so boldly through changes of many magnitudes.
Like the safety bar on a roller coaster, grasp on to the flow that moves everywhere with you. The opposite of change isn’t comfort and security, it is stagnation!
As Helen Keller reminded us “Life is an adventure or nothing at all!”
So how might your life be different if you began to embrace change? Getting on board with accepting, and yes, even embracing your life companion —change—may result in a great reduction in stress and apprehension; which would, by the way, slow down some of the truly undesirable changes! On your next breath, take a deeper breath and remember your breath is the safety bar that moves with you through all the changes.
This article was originally published on www.NaturallySavvy.com