This week I’m bringing one of my most popular episodes to you as a greatest hit! This week is all about how change is inevitable – and how embracing it levels up our resilience and joy. I chose this topic because we’re in the midst of change: we transitioned relatively recently into a new year, we are about to head into Spring and another change of seasons…and for some damn reason, we crazy humans try to either convince ourselves that things shouldn’t change and that they should stay the same when we are happy, and that things should change faster if we aren’t happy.
But we forget that change is inevitable. We are so surprised when a job changes or when a relationship shifts, when someone we care about dies or when something breaks…but really, it is the nature of things to change.
It would be awesome if, when something good ends, we can try to consider that perhaps nothing has gone wrong. Perhaps that’s just the way things are to be.
Or that when we are suffering, maybe we can remember that hey, we can do it, we can make it through, because it WILL end. Everything changes.
Because when we remember this and embrace it, we actually can ride these changes – which will happen no matter how hard we resist change – and are a whole lot happier, with much less unnecessary suffering.
The inevitability of change and your ziji – your inner radiant confidence that you will be able to handle what comes – are inextricably linked.
Surely we’ve all experienced lots of change in the past few years thanks to the pandemic. But there has been – and continues to be – constant change beyond the pandemic. There are fires, storms, and earthquakes. AND daily life offers lots of change as well with new jobs, relationship changes, or loss of a loved one. And let’s not forget the ways we try to fight change as it relates to aging, or our bodies changing.
Life is constantly unfolding, and we look for stability in it. We hold on to wanting the things we like to not change (but are ready as hell for the hard things to change, right?). We can grasp at this and hold on so tight, but because it is inevitable, we get rope burn.
This is why embracing change as an inevitable part of life that we can handle can be such a huge step in our practice that can help us in so many ways, because that rope burn? That is our emotional suffering that comes from resisting change.
One skill that mindfulness helps us with is to increase our window of tolerance for the changes in life – all the joys and sorrows that come with it. To increase, our “window of tolerance” for the joys and the sorrows of life.
And in our own direct experience of mindfulness of our body and mind, we have sensations and emotions that feel so freakin’ intense, and then they disappear. We feel anger and it rises and then at some point passes away. We become mindful of our thoughts and realize that they come and go too – and we recall how it felt so… REAL when we believed them.
We get lost in our thoughts, a whole world of mental projections… and then it’s gone and next thing you know we’re thinking, “what’s the next yoga class I should go to?” or “what should I have for dinner?”
That’s how the mind works, and that means to be able to be present with change is a big part of the art of being human.
People will talk about divorces, losing their jobs, or their kid getting a serious diagnosis, or their parents aging or dying or having to deal with their estate after they die and all the family conflict that arises…
And what we can maybe offer our fellow humans is a kind of presence that can say, in the most compassionate way, “Yes, this is– life is like this. And not only that – you’re not alone.” I mean this first part, it’s part of self-compassion practice. It’s not meant to minimize someone’s suffering. It’s meant to create this sense of common humanity – how this is part of the deal of being human and, oh sister, oh brother, I feel you. I see you.
When we suffer due to change, we can think ah, like this, someone else is also suffering. Not to make us buck up and get over it, but to soften our heart and recognize this wild dance of life we’re in as humans.
This is part of the human journey. We can stay present for it. We can bear witness to it, for us and others… we can normalize it and say, “Yes, there is change.”
So yes, at first, it sounds obvious. News flash: things change. But you can illuminate it and point to a kind of wisdom or freedom or capacity in the midst of it all.
Society, on the other hand, often tries to convince us that in fact, change isn’t going to happen and that we can even try to protect ourselves from it, right? We’re told we can protect everything – insure everything – and that way nothing will ever change. We can be safe. But true safety is in our thoughts. It is only found in ourselves. It cannot be found “out there.”
The problem with holding on so tightly to those passing moments is that we get that rope burn because it will change! What would happen if instead we savored it and experienced it and let it permeate every cell of our being – and not hold on to it.
This idea is sometimes called the “wisdom of insecurity.” It’s like Ajahn Chah’s phrase, “It’s uncertain, isn’t it?” Or Korean Zen master, Dae Seung Sahn Seon-sa-nim, who would use the “don’t know mind.” – What is love? Don’t know. What will happen tomorrow? Don’t know. What made the universe? Don’t know.
That is the wisdom of openness, of seeing that this is all a mystery, and that not only should we see life in this way, but we should also appreciate and rest in it – in the wisdom of uncertainty and insecurity.
The first thing to do when resting in this kind of wisdom might seem counterintuitive, but it is to relax. By relaxing and being present in change instead of resisting and constricting around it, you have increased capacity to hold it, to let it move through you, to be in the space within which life renews itself.
This also requires trust. Trust in a kind of resilience, in your ziji – your radiant inner confidence that you will be able to handle whatever life sends your way. Trust that something new will come, that you have capacities you didn’t know of, or that you forgot about.
The next step is to move from the content of the change that’s happening towards the process of life itself, embracing that this is the way life is. It changes. It will continue to do so. So we expand our window of tolerance for life’s joys and challenges.
The third step is to actually become the witness of it instead of the victim of it, to become the loving awareness to rest in consciousness itself, and to find within you a kind of freedom that is untouched by change. This does not mean our hearts are untouched – we can choose grief or to be brought to our knees when tragedy happens, but our freedom remains untouched.
These concepts are really revolutionary, because our culture is teaching something different. We are told that things don’t change, that it’s possible to protect it from changing. We’re advised to lock it up and find security and make sure everything isn’t going to change. But that’s not the reality. Life is change, and we need this medicine at all times in our life.
When we understand this, and when we can offer this to others, something beautiful happens for people. Our resilience, our ziji, our trust, our capacity to be present, our tenderness and compassion grow.
In this Episode you will learn:
// How to stop resisting change
// How to tap into your own resilience and capacity to handle it
// How to help others going through change
// The type of wisdom you can cultivate to have your freedom be untouched by change
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.
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