There’s been a lot going on lately. For me personally, but also for many others on a national and global level. But this is the thing about life: change is inevitable and it’s something you can’t avoid. Sometimes change is uncomfortable. Other times it’s downright scary. And often it can make you feel as if you have no control.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more about private life changes of my own, and the public life changes many others around me are experiencing. Often, change is viewed as a personal affront, an attack on one’s beliefs or way of life, or a sense of being picked on or singled out. It can also feel like you’re not being heard or, worse, don’t matter.
Barring extreme circumstances, change usually isn’t personal. It’s how you view it that makes it personal.
I’ve been studying mindfulness and meditation for a while now, and in doing so I’ve rediscovered something very important about change that I’d forgotten: that when one door closes, another one always opens eventually. However, getting bogged down in regret, or in rear view mirror thinking, can make it difficult to find that other window, which only comes with Acceptance.
Acceptance, like change, can also be misunderstood.
Acceptance isn’t cowering; it’s allowing strong emotions to surface and then letting the mind and heart process what’s fueling those emotions.
Acceptance isn’t giving up or giving in; it’s understanding that you can bend and flex just as a tree does under a powerful storm, knowing you’ll stand tall again once the tumult has passed.
Acceptance is empowerment – to make new change. To take charge with renewed focus. To let go of the very thing that was bringing you down and making you lose your way, and to embrace a new way of thinking and being and living instead. It’s about welcoming that newly opened door with gusto and fervor and positivity.
This is a powerful and formidable position to be in.
The beauty of writing today’s blog was that it served two purposes: one, to remind me of the mindfulness of change and a new and alternate open door ahead of me (even if I haven’t found it yet). And two, to share with you some things I’ve learned along the way–for when you feel like change is too much, too powerful, or just too strange to comprehend:
- Accept change with compassion. This means being compassionate with yourself as you experience the change. This also means forgiving yourself for when you feel angry toward yourself, or even others. You may become short-tempered or impatient. You may fight any information that seems to go against your mindset or psychological grain. When this happens, accept that it’s a normal reaction. Recognize that it’s okay to feel that way, that it’s simply your mind and heart’s way of protecting you, and then release the negativity. Envision it as a cloud that dissipates overhead, or a balloon that rises and loses air until it completely disappears. Take in a deep breath, and move on.
- Accept the grief, and the anger. Humans are emotional beings. That means an uncomfortable situation will bring forth many feelings, and the more uncomfortable the situation, the stronger the feelings that go with it. This is also normal, and you will progress through the stages of loss as you come to terms with change. You will experience denial, and anger, and bargaining, and depression, and finally acceptance. Let yourself go through it all. Only then will you discover that newly opened door. Fight it, and it’ll never see the light of day.
- Change can feel like you’ve lost something. But most often it’s a new beginning. Humans love, and rely on, routine. We get up at the same time, we go to the same job, we do the same exercise routines. Ask a person to change an eating behavior because it’s healthier, or tell them they have to move to another state, and suddenly even the most even-keeled person will fight the very thing they have to change—even if it’s better for them. When that happens, recognize the loss but also recognize that with loss comes new opportunity and new adventure.
- Understand that reactionary behavior won’t solve anything. The temptation to bark at someone who doesn’t agree with you, or incessantly obsess about a perceived unfairness, is your psyche’s way of protecting you. Your brain is wired to take care of you. It warns you when danger is imminent, but it also likes to tell you internal stories that often aren’t true. Take the time to listen to those internal stories and recognize they’re just that: stories. Understand that listening to those internal monologues—and without questioning them—are what fire up emotion and can make you do something you may regret later.
- Use change as an opportunity to learn. About yourself. About other people. About different ways of viewing life or doing things. Growth is the only way we learn about ourselves. Same thing with challenge. If life stayed the same, it would become very boring. We’d also never know what we’re truly capable of.
- Use change as an opportunity to do something new. Once you realize that change is an opportunity to learn, you also discover that it’s a chance to try things differently. A new career. A new place to live. A new group of people to become friends with. A reason to become an activist, or a teacher, or a student—many life possibilities suddenly become available to you once you open your eyes to new experiences. It can be very enlightening, and enriching. It can also make things better than they were before.
- Challenge the notion that feeling down, or feeling down and out, doesn’t define you. Change offers a new way of seeing and experiencing things. It also provides an opportunity to grow stronger and better, if only you embrace it. Once you embrace it, you arm yourself to become something more than you were before. Someone who can make a difference, find a true passion, support a worthy cause, or embrace a life lesson that you can take forward and maybe share with others.
- Open yourself to the idea that there is no right way or wrong way, only the way that’s best for you. Change is challenge, yes, but it’s also different for everyone. And that difference is what prompts growth for all of us, if we’re only open to accepting the challenge to begin with.
There is an old Chinese proverb about change:
“When the winds of change are blowing,
some people are building shelters and others are building windmills.”
So go build a windmill. Then watch all the wonderful things that happen when you do it.
Have anything else to add? I’d love to hear it.
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