By Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD
What do we both resist and welcome at the same time?
Change. The one aspect of life that is never-ending, that will never ever change.
I can't complain. It is offering me a salary and job security for work that I've been called to do and truly love. There is nothing more satisfying than helping my clients dig their roots deeper into the NOW and live their lives to the fullest, even when the seasons continue to change and the leaves won't stop falling.
Most of us can come up with something really pressing at any given time that's in dire need of change, or so we think -- our sabotaging mindsets, our relentless critic, our lousy communication skills, our embarrassing habits, our dead-end careers, our crappy finances, our neglected health, our obsession with appearance, our empty appreciation of others, our laughable love life, our catastrophic thoughts, our knee-jerk panicking, our lack of commitment to our best self or fun projects, our feelings of constant overwhelm, our lack of sensitivity, our oversensitivity, our difficulty in staying in the present moment, our gaping need for approval, and on and on. For some reason, we just can't seem to make these changes happen, even after years of trying and struggling.
Why is that? Why do we feel so ambivalent and conflicted about change -- something that is as natural as the seasons, something that each one of our cells are constantly doing?
Perhaps it is because we recognize that even the tiniest changes in our lives mimic our human drama and condition of walking a tight rope spanned between birth and death.
We, human beings, still secretly curse these dualistic cards - called life - that we've been dealt. We really don't do well with paradox, as much as we try to make it seem that way. Our challenge to make sense of our infinitely mysterious human condition during a finite period of time while the clock keeps ticking like some hidden landmine just seems like a sick joke.
We resist this reality. We ignore the work that we know we should be doing. We do things our way. We split the world into black and white, good and bad, life and death, and make our lives as concrete, straight-forward, and predictable as possible, choosing the most controlled and controllable path no matter how often we get reminded that our stubbornness will backfire.
Sometimes it takes a close, unexpected brush with death to help us break through our polarized thinking and embrace our paradoxical complexity and the blessings within. We recognize that enjoying life to the fullest is much easier when we deeply realize that it could all be over in a flash.
Our energy and soul's purpose are similarly fueled by a state of perfect imperfection -- the delicate and dynamic tension that exists between mastery and chaos, life and death, certainty and uncertainty, safety and risk, the known and the unknown, routine and adventure, and the loss and gain of what we consciously or unconsciously experience every moment of the day as growing, stretching, dying, mysterious human beings.
From the minute we are born, we enjoy exploring and learning new things. As soon as we have reached a certain sense of mastery in one area, we move on to the next developmental task despite the fact that we will, once again, fumble and stumble at attempting the new skill.
The transition and urge to leave a comfortable state of satisfaction and mastery behind for one of uncertainty, challenge, and risk occurs throughout our life span as we transition from preschool to kindergarten, from elementary school to middle school, from middle school to high school, from adolescence to adulthood, from high school to college, from college to our first job, from being a child to being a parent, from our first entry-level position to mid-management, from being self-absorbed to being interconnected and of service, and from being a vigorous body to a decaying and eventually, frail one.
If we haven't done so yet, our physical decline can help us shift from a purely material, tangible, rational focus to a mindset that is more in tune with a holistic, spiritual, and subtle sense of reality to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.
The right pace and balance between stability and change during these transitions not only vary greatly from individual to individual, but also from culture to culture. Because of the many opportunities for growth inherent in change and loss, many wise, indigenous earth-based cultures artificially and periodically challenge the mind, body, and spirit of their members through fasting, shamanic journeys, isolated meditation, vision quests, and other rites of passage to accelerate spiritual learning and refine consciousness long before old-age.
The belief is that the less attached we are to things - not only our tangible possessions, but also our limited, conditioned sense of self, our ego self, our life stories, our finite packaging, and expectations - the more graceful and aligned we will become with cosmic cycles and natural rhythms of change.
This surrendering worldview sharply contrasts with the control we often try to exert over the natural world, our natural self, and our life style in modern, technocratic, well-to-do societies.
In these societies, we are much more inclined to cover up the reality of our mortality and the impermanence of everything with layers of self-indulgence, preoccupation, denial, medications, shopping, substances, and avoidance of emotions, pain, frustration, loss, mystery, and darkness, not realizing that this half deck of cards inadvertently dampens our creative spark and flattens the range of our human experience.
When our focus completely shifts from our intuitive inner compass to outward success and control, defined by our careers, power, money, surface appearances, possessions, reason, and an avoidance of all growing pains, emotional awareness, and discomfort, we respond with symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, addiction, and emptiness that more deeply ingrain our problematic patterns over time. A vicious cycle develops when we try to outwit these feelings by responding more frantically to external demands rather than making inner changes that ground and root us in our true selves and a state of permanence and calm, despite these outward changes.
Instead of dreading times of transition and/or feeling stuck in dysfunctional patterns, it is possible to welcome, honor, and invite the ebb and flow of change into our life and the rich inner work that transitions continuously provide us.
To resist predictable cycles of change and self-exploration is to deny yourself and the world the gifts of this transformational process -- your emergence from temporary upheaval and fog with a deeper appreciation for your most sacred, permanent, boundless self, and the fruits that you'll be able to harvest once autumn comes back around.
About my own hero's journey and the big changes going on in my life: my book, Amazon Wisdom Keeper, is on the pubslush launch pad, a kickstarter especially for books.
Campaign launch date: October 21 - my birthday - just one of many serendipitous coincidences in writing this book.
For a sneak peek, visit: www.AmazonWisdomKeeper.pubslush.com