It is mid-January and we have set some goals for the upcoming year. Our calendars are already filled with all sorts of plans and many of them create new beginnings; however, there is one significant element that we seem to overlook: feelings. The familiar feelings of stress and anxiety crop up when we least expect them, even during happy times. In fact, they can accompany all of our other emotions and distract us from fully experiencing what is in front of us.
The following quote by Leo Buscaglia sheds light on this concept: “Change is life. Without change there would be no growth, no understanding, no relating, and no surprises. We are by nature changing beings. Still we seem to fear and resist it more than any other aspect of life.”
We undergo many changes: graduations, weddings, anniversaries, new jobs, divorces, deaths, illnesses, and more. Each phase of life-change brings growth, discomfort, and opportunity. Yet, we resist these changes because we are creatures of habit. We are comfortable with how things are. We want our children to stay adorable, looking up to us like we are perfect in every way. (Oops, my mistake—this is not a fantasy book!)
So it is with every aspect of living, not only the big events. There will always be an ending and a new beginning, and every change impacts everyone involved. Since nothing stays stagnant and we should not get too attached to anything. But we do; we continue to resist the changes and when we finally let go we leave claw marks behind. No matter how tightly we hold on, change is guaranteed.
Many situations in life do not go as planned, and the struggle is painful. When the familiar ends and the new has not yet emerged, we are in the hallway in between, and it is not comfortable. At times it feels as if we will remain there forever.
Our minds’ reaction to this discomfort wreaks havoc on our physical and emotional state. We see no end in sight because we have convinced ourselves that it will never change. But in the course of life, change happens, both positive and negative.
When things are going well, we want life to remain as it is. When things aren’t going well, we want them to shift. Just like in Dr. Seuss’ classic book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, the path is filled with constant changes and it is helpful to remember that even the good things will ebb and flow.
Each moment brings change; as the moment passes a new moment emerges. Each and every breath is a new breath. Everything has a beginning, a crest, and an end—emotions, thoughts, sensations, events, breaths, and life itself. All of these things are constantly changing in a wavelike movement. We tend to focus on the most intense part and often get stuck there. When you look at an ocean wave, it begins with a calm assent and slowly climbs until it crests, then loses momentum and disappears.
We have the ability to observe this wavelike movement when our attention is in the present moment. This will reduce our judgment about whether what is happening is good or bad, right or wrong—it is simply a moment-to-moment experience. Observing the waves of change inherent in life is an exquisite process and to resist it might keep you from seeing new opportunities.
Let’s begin to cultivate the awareness of the changes within the wave with something simple, such as transportation.
- Focus on the movement of your car, bicycle, bus, subway, skates, boat, or any other vehicle you are in. Each movement begins, accelerates, slows, and stops. Notice the wavelike motion contained in the entire process.
- As you practice, notice if your mind is drifting away from what is happening. If so, become aware of your thoughts and bring your attention back to the moment-to-moment movement.
- This is an invitation to begin to cultivate the concept of a wave. Have fun with this exploration and keep an open mind.
The constant nature of change can offer us comfort because it represents something certain in life. When you really digest this fact, you will have an easier time rolling with the ups and downs inherent in your day. Whether it is traffic, a hot flash, a celebration, an illness, or loss, you can count on this simple phrase: This too shall pass . . . I guarantee you, it will.
Let me know in the comments below how you deal with change. Can you begin to notice the wave in change?