As we transition from 2020 year to 2021 I find myself reflecting on the nature of change. In bringing this subject to the forefront of my thoughts I realised how change is a constant flow of energy in the background of our lives. Day follows night which follows day; morning passes into afternoon that passes into evening; one year follows another as time goes by; in our hemisphere Spring leads to Summer, that leads to Autumn, that leads to Winter that leads to Spring; endings contain beginnings that seed endings that contain beginnings; each year we grow a year older; hair grows, gets cut and grows again, to name a few silent constants in life.
It seems to me we really only notice change when it comes with a force that awakens us to its existence. And so often that meeting is filled with resistance. Change comes in the guise of illness; accidents; births; new relationships; deaths; losing a job; getting a job; leaving home; buying a house; becoming homeless; addiction; recovering from addiction; facing our demons; embracing our goodness; losing an ability; discovering a latent talent; learning a language; moving country; entering a new culture; gaining riches; entering into poverty; becoming famous; becoming infamous; and all the various ways each and everyone of us has been challenged in one way or another to face the reality of change. As the Buddha said many years ago” Nothing is forever except change”.
Having spent the past 10 years exploring the link between the movement practices I teach and neuroscience in the Embodied Presence courses I notice so often that the first response to change is to resist. It is almost like we will embrace the change if we can be guaranteed the outcome. As if we could “magic” the change to happen overnight and without any challenging impacts on us. Yet my experience of change is the complete opposite. Change is a process and to enter into the process I have to give up the idea that I can control the outcome. Yes I can allow myself to imagine how I might wish to be, but making that wish be a fixed outcome may lead me to resisting the various opportunities and challenges that the change process will inevitably throw up. I recognise the human condition of needing to feel safe, to be secure and to know what is ahead of us. We are creatures of habit – even habits that cause us pain, at least we know them and are in a perverse way attached to them.
” Change is hard at first; messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end.” Robin Sharma
Detaching from old ways and patterns is hard and there is often a part in the process where we truly may not know where we are going or even why we embarked/embraced the change. We hear the mantra ” we want to go back to normal”. Yet back to normal is no longer an option. As to go back to what we called normal would mean we would have to bury or deny the process we are in. We cannot unknow something we have learned- we can “forget”; we can pretend; we can deny but all that takes energy.
This time of the year we are often full of promise and resolutions for change without the knowledge that the change will take discipline, consistency of purpose and most of all positive support. It takes one foot in front of the other day after day until there is a space between the old way and the possibility of the new. That space for me is to be valued, nurtured, tended with care and most of all patience, like I would a plant where the possibility of growth shows its head above the soil.
If I have learned nothing else this past year it has been the profound difficulty of change and how to find ways and means to work with it rather than against it. I think this is one of the most profound collective change processes that this generation has engaged in and I believe we can never “return to normal” if normal means how it was before.
From listening to friends and students the change for some has been devastating, for others it has produced a positive fresh way of being, others are somewhere in between.
I am still in the messy middle of wondering what this huge upheaval is all about. I know it has offered me new ways of working -using zoom, something I appreciate but still do not like; a new way of experiencing what it is to live in the one place day after day, to stop travelling; it has taken me to the depths of loneliness and the strange new ways to connect; it has forced me finally to look into a part of my way of living that I have manged to avoid all my life, or at least skirt around the edges, and that is truly messy inside me at present.
Even still each morning as I awaken I know a sliver of hope lurks in the shadows that I will hear it is all over and I can pack the car, take off and teach in person. Then I awaken fully to the reality of the day and I know the only thing I can do is put my foot on the floor and step into yet another day in this messy middle, bringing with me the knowledge that I am being shaped and changed by this experience.
I have stepped far enough thru this year to see the space between the dreams and wishes I had at the start of 2020, how they got blown out of the water and where I am right now as I write these words. I can sense less clinging to how it was in my life and a growing sense of moments of tolerance for the not knowing what is ahead. I can see more clearly the positive resources that are available to me to stay steady and keep putting one foot in front of the other as I grieve the loss of life as I knew it and turn towards this new year, this new opportunity to finally accept that the only constant in my life is change- both the tolerable and intolerable ones.