Change is the Only Constant — Embrace It
It’s comforting to cling to aspects of our lives that deliver results. Perhaps you’re a regular at a much-beloved yoga studio. Perhaps you can’t fall asleep without your significant other. Perhaps you run daily, or finally landed that job you’ve had your eyes set for years and think, “Look, I’ve made it!”
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” — Lao Tzu
But then...you lose your job, and the nice yoga studio is one of the first things to go while you turn to freelancing for a few months. You miss that guaranteed calm, and all kinds of anxieties re-surface. Your lover takes a job across the country and decides to leave your relationship behind, along with a cold and empty pillow. You suddenly have pangs in your stomach on nights spent alone and turn to medication to help you sleep. You develop debilitating bunions and — doctor’s orders — running is off the table for the foreseeable future. Your mind becomes anxious; you were so used to that release! And the body changes in tandem. It turns out that a six-figure job, the one that cushioned both your checking account and social status, makes you feel pretty empty. Years of work and sacrifice aimed towards getting there no longer make sense...
Changes rattle our lives, especially when we’re highly dependent on outside factors, and expect them to stay constant or deliver what they (seem to) promise to — at least on the surface.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ― Alan Watts
And yet, change is the only constant! Nature itself is in flux, giving us warmth and the sunshine then receding into winters where plants shrivel, animals burrow, and we all tend to cozy up indoors. And on a micro level, our bodies might be the greatest teachers of all, if we'd just pay attention. Women are in tune with this from the changes we experience in hormone levels. And even within these expected cycles, there are variations. Some winters deal harsher blows than others. A woman’s cycle might change with her living situation, or perhaps due to diet.
Perhaps some or all of the above scenarios are ones you’ve experienced in some capacity, but what if we learn to embrace change? If you shift your perspective, it’s possible to view this flux as a gift. As with nature and how she gives and takes, we too are constantly in flux. It’s especially easy to lose sight of this living in an urban setting.
When we’re forced to stretch or forget our established boundaries, (a routine is great, but these are susceptible to forces beyond our control) we can change our mindset on change itself. This helps us optimize our existence! We can become more self-actualized if we allow this fresher perspective to take root.
Every unique scenario of your life offers you the possibility for growth, if you accept them as such.
Jobless and unable to afford your savior of a yoga studio, you’re forced to think more creatively, or at least outside your comfort zone. Instead of spending money on yoga, you lace up those running shoes and discover your local park with its attendant winding trails and flowery fragrant air. You love it so much you join a running meetup group and start training for a half marathon. Before you know it, you’ve discovered a new passion. You might also get scrappy. Some yoga studios are open to work exchanges, and decide to donate some weekend time to the studio in exchange for free classes. In doing so you develop deeper bonds with the teachers and other fellow yogis. By the time you find another job, you’ve built a strong sense of community with the studio and realized you want to do a teacher training course. Had you not lost your job and started working for the studio, this would have never happened.
Your lover leaves, and you’re left feeling hollow. You try dating apps, but it only makes you miss him/her more, so you start spending more time alone. In doing so, you find that evenings taken up with Netflix are more fruitful when filled with activities just for you. The time alone makes you more self-aware, more present. You begin to see how the relationship was not so lovely at all, but rather, you were codependent and it didn’t allow you the space to live out your highest self. Armed with more time and self-awareness, you pick up the instrument you put down when you moved to the city and sign up for that cooking class that fell on date night. Maybe you start writing, and after a few months decide to attend poetry readings. Through these activities, you find new communities — and perhaps even a new lover — who vibes with you on a deeper level because you’re living out a truer self, not the version you were before you dedicated yourself to your ex.
And sometimes, change isn't about loss, but abundance that disguises greater evils. These changes parade about with masks, not being loss, per se, but their effects are more nuanced. The dream job with its six-figure paycheck comes to you after years of the grind. You love the title; you love to tell people what you do. Mere weeks into the role you realize the best thing about is just that: telling people about it. It never occurred to you that you might think, "This is IT, this is what I worked for!" You're miserable and under the scrutiny of overlords whose values make you squeamish. Your life's efforts feel as though they were all for naught. Instead of wallowing, feeling trapped or like everything you’ve done was a mistake, you view this as an opportunity for self-growth. For the first time, you examine why you wanted this, and realize the extent to which values were based outside of approval and societal norms. Slowly but surely, you start thinking for yourself. To offset the misery of the job, you make the best of what you've been given. Suddenly desiring less social time with those who value titles over happiness, you start saving as much of your money as possible. After pushing through a year at the job, you have enough money to take six months off and travel. You embark on a journey you never thought you'd take because you've always been so work-driven. The rest is history.
“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.” — Pema Chodron
If not for some change and the myriad curveballs it throws at us, we'd evolve much more slowly. Like trees whose latent winter flowers are preparing to blossom brightly in spring, we too can find ourselves better in tune with both nature’s, and our own, natural fluctuations if we go with the flow. When change becomes a mechanism for growth, and we surrender to its inevitability, we're better able to harmonize and improvise with the ever-evolving world around us. Adopting this mindset — that change is the only constant, something that helps us evolve and self-actualize — frees us from suffering, every single day.