Change is in the air. Not only is the change of seasons palpable in many places, but in the case of many people I know, life changes are brewing, often showing up in dramatic ways or in the form of an unexpected curveball. In relationships, completions or new beginnings. In business, projects — or even jobs — winding down, and new ventures emerging. Many find themselves in transition, adrift in the unknown. And Sandy has made climate change more difficult to remain in denial about — perhaps the megastorm’s only silver lining.
If change is a sign of the times, how do we best prepare ourselves to navigate it more gracefully? Here are some thoughts I’ve been pondering and simple ways I’ve been practicing as I, too, face abrupt change in my life.
1) Resistance is futile. In life, change is one of the few certainties we can count on; we might as well learn to welcome or at least accept it.
2) If holding on is fruitless anyway, we might as well let go and flow. What if we stopped flailing and struggling, and instead of desperately fighting the current as we try to swim upstream, we just let go and allow the current to take us?
3) Remember who we are. The part of us that resists and is threatened by change is the ego or personality — a minuscule part of who we are. Our true, deeper nature is that of cliff-divers. That part of us has been waiting to let go of aspects we have outgrown, looking for the next cliff from which to dive. It knows that a net will appear or, better yet, wings will sprout, allowing us to soar.
4) Emotions are just energies coursing through our bodies; let’s not give them too much power over our lives. We can learn to take charge of them. The energy of fear is very similar in the body to that of excitement. We can reframe our emotions as if flipping a switch, transmuting energy from overwhelm (“OMG, I have nowhere to live as of the end of November and am on the road until the 20th!”) to anticipation (“Wow! What a fascinating turn of events… Wonder where I’ll land next?”).
5) Trust. There is always a silver lining, always opportunities for growth, learning and expansion. It will all work out somehow, one way or another, and perhaps we don’t need to know all the details right now. Maybe that’s not our job.
6) What is our job, then? We take action and participate fully. We make the phone calls, check out the Craigslist posts; we do what we can. We activate and explore possibilities and pay attention to where doors open and opportunities present themselves. We follow where the energy leads, without attachment to outcome.
7) We learn to abide. Abiding is not passively waiting, but a conscious and alert state of mind. We remain actively aware, looking out for signs, synchronicities, “coincidences,” until we have clarity.
Signs may come from surprising sources — unexpected calls or emails, even billboards or a song on the radio. Tuning in to the signs is a natural process, but one that requires presence and attention.
8) Going within helps. Take time alone, ideally in nature. This is a time to dive deep and ponder the critical questions: Who am I, really? Why am I here? What kind of legacy do I wish to leave behind? What can I learn from this situation so that I don’t have to continue recreating it?
9) Deep breathing helps to handle stress and gain perspective. Remember: Who we are is so much bigger than the circumstances of our lives!
In Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Richard Bach tells of a race of little creatures living at the bottom of a river. Always subject to the river’s relentless current, they survived by grabbing on to stones or tree branches at the river bottom. There they lived, in the muck, at the mercy of the current and passing debris, “for clinging was their way of life and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.” Eventually one of the creatures tired of its life and announced that it was going to let go, because if it didn’t, it would “die of boredom.” Mockingly — but more than likely terrified inside, as bullies tend to be — the others warned him: “Fool! That current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!” But the creature had had enough of its meaningless existence… and let go. Sure enough, at first it was tossed and tumbled and thrown against stones, but eventually the current lifted up and steadied it. The creature was liberated from its fearful, clinging and limited existence, easily and gracefully floating downstream, at one with the current, as if soaring. Eventually, it drifted over another village of creatures who had never seen one of their kind do anything but hold on for dear life at the river bottom. Looking up in awestruck amazement, they called out “See, a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies. See the Messiah, come to save us all!” The creature responded, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare to let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure!” And then it was swept away, leaving the others to make up elaborate stories about their savior.
Are you tired of clinging? There’s one thing left to do: Let go!