Tag Archives: change

Resolving to Make Friends With Change

This is the time of year when we all want to start over, to make things better, to move forward into a brighter future.

Perfectly understandable. As humans, we have the intelligence and forethought to choose goals and work toward them.

But I think for most of us, myself included, our underlying desire is to create a positive, permanent state that will eliminate discomfort and uncertainty forever. We want our lives to be perfect, and then to stay that way. We want to solve our problems once and for all.

Also perfectly understandable. But not the way life works. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, change is the only constant. So as we resolve to attempt some big changes in our lives, perhaps one of our goals could be to make friends with change itself, to acknowledge whatever the tides bring and to figure out how to take full advantage of it, even if it seems “bad.”

Pema Chodron, in her book When Things Fall Apart, talks about this approach to life’s uncertainties:

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen. When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don’t know. We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.

So let’s make goals, envision a better future, and move bravely in that direction. But as we go, let’s know that curve balls happen, winds shift, the tide will come in and go out. Let’s be ready for whatever the future brings, open to its gifts and its challenges. Let’s breathe through change, that dear friend who is always present.

Occupy Your Life

I haven’t been to an Occupy protest or gathering yet, but I’ve been to a few demonstrations in the past. The first was in January of 1991 when the first Gulf War broke out. There was a gathering in downtown Santa Cruz: peaceful, passionate and very inspiring. I felt like the slogan “No blood for oil” was so incredibly obvious that surely once the world heard it, that mistake would never be made again.

History would prove me unforgivably naive.

I also rode in a Critical Mass bicycle ride in Santa Cruz. That was wonderfully intense as well. The feeling of being part of a united group is amazing. Like being at a concert or sporting event, except that you are convinced that what brings you together is not just the pleasure of spectacle (although that has its value too) but a deeper, more meaningful purpose. A gathering based on love, freedom, justice, true solidarity.

Watching the live stream of Occupy Oakland and Occupy Seattle last night, I could feel a bit of that togetherness through the screen. I could easily imagine the communal high that the participants must be feeling.

When I then took a break and went outside, the chilly air and blue sky grabbed my senses, as though I were remembering what is real.

Turning away from the screen, accepting that I am thousands of miles away from these hot spots, I began to see everything I did as part of a greater whole: feeding my children and their friends, inviting the kids to come out to see the half-moon in the sky, doing a load of laundry, tidying up the living room. Every action would ripple out, with a bigger or smaller wave, into the wider world.

And every *thing* became a link in a chain: from which store had I bought the food? Who manufactured the detergent I used? I could see that every object surrounding me came with a history and had the potential to slightly alter the path ahead, not just for me but for the planet in general.

Of course I’d thought these thoughts before. Of course we’ve all meant to change some part of our lives and the world. We’ve all wanted to revolt against something at some time or other. We’ve all questioned, what could possibly be the meaning of it all, or more importantly, what do I BELIEVE is the meaning?

I begin with these words, anew. I begin in this moment, again.

As I watch Occupiers making great leaps for mankind, I will take the next small step in front of me. It could lead to something big and powerful, but even if my life is only a series of small, purposeful, loving movements, those ripples will join the waves moving in the same direction, unite with the common good for the benefit of all beings.

Occupy your own life and begin to live today.

A Big Resolution

On this New Year’s Eve, I have lots of small resolutions I could list: projects I mean to finish, people I mean to keep in better touch with, ways I mean to take better care of my family.

But if I could just make one resolution come true it would be this: to develop a core of wise calmness with which to respond to people and situations instead of my current strategy, which is to give into the temptation to lose my cool and stomp around hollering like a crazy person.

I fully sympathize with the pressure I’m under on a daily basis.  I frequently have many people clamoring, often not so quietly or politely, for my attention and my assistance.  I can (after the fact) look back at myself in a certain situation, say, with two pots working on the stove, my husband calling to have me edit a story, my three year old refusing to listen to his 8 year old sister’s demand that he stop whacking her with a dinosaur, all the while having a screaming baby beside me, and I can say, wow, no wonder you started hollering when one of the kids wrinkled their nose and said, “Ew! I don’t WANT that for dinner!”

But the reality is, I don’t want to excuse myself, however much I may understand that my angry response is natural.  Stressful situations are a part of everyone’s life.  When my kids are grown there will still be something that tries to push me over the edge.  I want a new response.  One that might not fix everything, but which will truly be the best response possible, and one that I won’t have to feel like crap about afterwards.

A few years ago, I went through a dark emotional time where I was intensely jealous of my husband.  I used to have to get out of bed and take my stewing to the living room, because I was absolutely consumed with pain throughout my heart and my body.  I sat with the horrible feelings, I wrote about it, I talked to people, I prayed, I desperately tried everything.  I have no idea what did the trick, but that nasty agonizing jealousy went away.

I believe the same thing can happen with my anger.  If I can only have one big change this year, I want it to be a connection to Oneness so deep that love and joy cannot help but infuse themselves into the world through my heart.

From Essential Sufism edited by James Fadiman & Robert Frager

“Some Israelites insulted Jesus one day as he walked through the marketplace.

He answered them only by repeating prayers in their name.

Someone said to him, “You prayed for these men.  Do you not feel anger at their treatment of you?”

He answered, “I could spend only what I carry in my purse.” — Attar