Living (and Thriving) in a Changing World

Change is happening. Open your mind and get curious with all the kindness and compassion you can muster. Apply this instruction to any situation you find yourself in. In fact, it could be a mission statement for life. In the Buddhist texts, it is called understanding and knowing the truth of  “impermanence”–an important lesson on the road to freedom from suffering.

And yet, we often resist change, try to make it stop, refuse to accept it, and have arguments about it. Of course, we bump up against change for a number of reasons. Change can be scary when we don’t know what’s on the other side. Change can hurt when it means that we lose something or someone that we love.  We don’t like change because we think we can control, hang on to things being a certain way, or because of hurts from the past. As a result, we do often suffer.

A few recent situations have me reflecting on change and how we can partner with it better. The first has to do with a local bank that is changing hands. I have been a customer at this bank almost my entire adult life (which is many years, by the way!) and my mother (who is obviously older) has been banking there even longer. A recent conversation with both my mother and a friend revolved around their sadness and fear of the bank changing to a new ownership. There is a real connection to this “home town” bank and losing it feels like losing an old friend. But, there was also an assumption that it wasn’t going to be as good once the new owners come in. Is that true?

Another situation has to do with the field of mindful eating. This month has been World Mindful Eating Month and in our closed Facebook group (which anyone can join, btw), the discussions have demonstrated the wide spectrum of understanding and sensitivities that people have when it comes to food, eating, our bodies, and how to view and treat them.

The members of the board of The Center for Mindful Eating are compassionately working to help people understand the destructiveness of focusing on weight and weight loss (as opposed to behavioral strategies and the internal wisdom of your body), the way to use language to uplift rather than shame ourselves, and the new lens for seeing offered by the body positivity movement. It is quite interesting to hear the fear of letting go of diet culture conditioning (e.g., “thinner is better,” “I need to lose weight to be healthy,” “there are “good” and “bad” foods,” and so many more) and yet this type of thinking and resulting behavior have caused millions of people to be unhappy and unhealthy. So, in this case, resisting changing your mindset is actually hurting yourself.

Of course, these are only two small examples of all of the changes that we go through in a lifetime of moments. Change literally happens with each breath. And, every day brings us face to face with the changing nature of our bodies, our relationships, our work, our culture, nature, and every other aspect of existence. Sometimes the change is welcomed but often we meet it with resistance and aversion.

This brings me to my suggestions for dealing with change.

1. Don’t assume that change is bad. Give change an opportunity to unfold before you judge. Be open to what might happen.

2. Use change as a way of learning new things. Change is asking you to grow and, if you take the challenge, you might learn that you are capable of more than you ever thought.

3. Use change as an opportunity. If you partner with change, you might find that you can direct change in a way that benefits you and others. Change will happen and your active participation in it will help you feel a part of it.   

4. Use mindfulness –nonjudgmental awareness in the present moment—to help you recognize what’s actually happening (instead of your fear of what’s happening), allow instead of resist, and be more flexible and relaxed in your responses.

5. Use the phrase “isn’t that interesting?” to help you examine and investigate in a more relaxed, curious way. This also helps you from taking it so personally. Change is not personal, it’s universal.

6. Try to find some humor in the situation. Laughing, particularly at yourself, can be a great way to lighten up and feel better. In my case, my personal stories of struggle with change make great stories for my classes (and my blog!).

7. Last, but not least, feel your feelings, but don’t get stuck in them. We need to acknowledge that change can hurt and naming and feeling the emotions we experience as we lose and grieve is an important step of partnering with change. But let them flow, don’t hold them in. Feelings change just like everything else when we allow them.

I will leave you with my new favorite quote about change. “The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”
― C. JoyBell C.