Recently, in the struggle of moving from who I was to who I am becoming, the Universe took notice and became the world’s biggest asshole Fitness Boot Camp coach who wanted to see just how serious I am about getting rid of my dad bod and firming up my core.
*Because that’s what I signed up for. Lots of burpees.
In recent talks with friends, change has been a theme. I
spoke vented…whined to two friends about how it seems that each time I make a covenant to change, attempting to be a compassionate, wise and mindful man, I seem to blow it, or it seems that I’ve run out of do-overs. It frustrates me when life becomes a repetitive, remedial experience. Life during a pandemic is “Groundhog Day” enough as it is.
One friend shared a recent teachable moment– We often project onto other people what we don’t want to confront or admit about who we are, in an effort to safely look at our shit with some distance. The problem with this is that we’re flinging our poop like chimps onto someone else and blaming them for being covered with it. Because we detest and judge in others what we don’t want to accept about ourselves, we turn away from the mirror the other person is holding up to us, and we miss an opportunity to transform. Instead of turning toward the mirror, our knee-jerk reaction is one of (for example):
“This guy has shared with me that he has cheated and been unfaithful in the past. Because he is telling me the truth, I cannot trust him because I am not around him 24/7 to see what he’s doing when I’m not around. I’ve been cheated on before, and I’ve learned not to trust anyone. Trust is too big a risk for me to take.”
Instead, we could look at ourselves.
“Trusting other people is hard for me. Past suffering and hurt have taught me that others cannot be trusted, and will disappoint me and lie to me. I have no control over the past actions of others nor the future actions of others. I can, however, learn how to trust myself, and have personal integrity.”
Every relationship we enter based on mistrust will end in more mistrust. The Universe will continue to give us what we want, and affirm what we believe about the world, until we interrupt the pattern and choose a fresh alternative. It’s having the awareness of, “Oh wow. I have trust issues because I don’t trust myself, not because I don’t trust anyone else. I’ve been taught not to trust others, and learned as a child that I cannot be trusted, and that’s a limiting belief. The person I need to learn to trust is me.”
My second friend experiences change as a cycle. He shared the Taoist perspective on transformation is about orbits, seasons, and shifts in orbit while we continue to circle around the Sun. Sometimes a life event, i.e. change, smacks us like a meteor and knocks us out of our familiar orbit into a new one. And it’s impossible to have any change–no matter how positive the change–without loss.
This is the nature of impermanence. Taoism and Buddhism agree that everything is temporary, everything changes. This is the truth. The truth is inconvenient.
Some of us stay stuck in the same boring, limiting, painful orbit around the Sun our whole lives, daydreaming about change while bemoaning the fact that nothing changes, same shit different year, wouldn’t it be great to change my job, go back to school, make more money, leave my deadbeat boyfriend, quit smoking, lose 30 pounds…and do jack shit about it other than seeking distractions in a series of shiny objects and halfhearted attempts at commitment. I have been one of those someones.
Or, we think we are changing until life happens to screw it up. “My New Year’s resolution is to make this year about my personal growth!” And a pandemic hits. “My relationship ended. I’m going to take this year to be in a relationship with myself!” And we get on a dating app one evening when we’re lonely. And a pandemic hits. “This year I’m finally going back to the gym!” And a pandemic hits. I am one of those someones, too.
Shifting orbit means that while we are cycling through seasons, we begin to expand from our comfort zone a few degrees per month, per year…and make our way into a new orbital zone in a mindful way. We recognize our resistance, and challenge our excuses. Here’s what happens exponentially when we make small, intentional changes:
And now for the bullet points of Inconvenient Truth:
- Change is the only constant in the Universe. This is not meant to be ironic.
- Humans. We’re the worst. We’re the ONLY SPECIES on the planet who deny change, wage war against it, avoid it, fear it, and yet really want it at the same time, then suffer as a result of having difficulty with change. Go ahead, try to refute that.
- Failure to accept change always leads to suffering. Always.
- With change, there is loss. Always.
- Change is different from transformation. To change something may be temporary, like our hair color, our underwear, or our boyfriend. To transform involves alchemy–once something is transformed, there’s no going back to what once was, and yet, that’s also not permanent. *See the first bullet point.
- Once you accept change as a Universal constant, and also accept the alchemy of transformation, other possibilities and moments of “oh shit!” and “oh wow!” are now recognizable to you on a semi-regular basis. This often sucks, and is occasionally fabulous.
- Moments of “oh shit” and “oh wow” were always there, but you weren’t present to them because you were sleepwalking through life and checking Facebook and posting Kardashian duck face selfies on Instagram instead of being fully present.
- Now that you’re woke, you’re more aware. It’s like tuning in to the rise and fall of waves hitting the beach instead of thinking of them as background noise while you play Animal Crossing.
- You will also go back to sleep and be less aware. *See the first bullet point.
- Sometimes, it takes a profound event–great suffering and injustice, tragedy, illness, death, loss, the unimaginable–to cause us to wake up to the present moment, and accept what we cannot change, gain courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
- It’s ALWAYS better to recognize you’re sitting in poop and have been sleepwalking through life wearing a dirty diaper BEFORE the shit you’ve been sitting in magically escapes your diaper and hits the fan. *Avoiding rock bottom is preferred.
- Lastly, change doesn’t care how you feel about it, is neither good nor bad, and is not subject to the ego. Change and the unknown are by their nature neutral.
I’ve heard it said “we truly let go of something when we no longer think about it.” Perhaps that’s related to the whole “forgive and forget” idea and the chasm between those words. I think that may be false. I think forgiveness means giving up hope for a better past.
Also, I’ve heard (and hated) the phrase “Everything happens for a reason”. But here’s the truth–that “reason” is “change”. When we begin to accept change, we can face fear with a sense of curiosity. Each day becomes an opportunity to check in with our bodies, with our partner, our friends and family, and see how the terrain has changed for them. Especially now during this time of great change, loss and uncertainty, this is more important than ever.
“How are you doing? I really mean it…how are you doing?”
One couple I know who have been married for a few decades have a ritual on their wedding anniversary. They go to the same restaurant every year, and they tell each other how they’ve noticed the other has changed, and how they’ve changed individually. They share the highs and lows of being married to each other for the year, giving each other honest, compassionate feedback. Before the check comes, they decide whether or not to re-up their marriage for another year. It’s been over 30 years, and they must be doing something right.
Acceptance of change means acceptance of the impermanence of all things, the reality of what is, and a commitment to pay attention to changes as they come. It means our relationship with ourselves, with our partner, our friends, and with everyone crossing our path is in perpetual motion like the seasons, intentional, fully present, and never taken for granted. It’s finding great grace in the awareness that all of this is temporary. Including me.