Embracing Change

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Embracing change is a wonderful way to approach the world, but sometimes it can be hard for people, particularly if the change is unwanted. Most frustration, unhappiness or fear that results from experiencing change is really due to an overly strong attachment to one or more beliefs. Usually, the belief is an expectation about the way things ‘should be'.

As we think, we generate beliefs. A belief is basically a thought we take to be true, identify with, and become emotionally attached to. We acquire and create these beliefs over the course of our lives. Eventually, we generate a whole structure of beliefs predicated upon one another and networked together which we call a belief system. Many of the beliefs we possess are so deeply carried, buried beneath other beliefs, that we are not even fully aware of them. They exist outside our conscious awareness and are embedded within our subconscious mind.

We tend to project our beliefs upon the world. One form is expectations. An expectation is simply a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. When our expectations are different from our experience and we don't like the experience our expectation is defeated and we experience a negative emotion.

For example, road rage drivers tend to get upset when caught in rush hour traffic because of how slowly the traffic moves. There is a belief these drivers hold that they should be moving faster than they are. At another level, there is a belief or beliefs such as, ‘I should be able to drive faster than the other drivers,' or , ‘This traffic is preventing me from going as fast as I want.' At an even deeper level there is a belief that says, ‘I am special, different from everyone else, and I should get my way'. This belief is one of ‘entitlement' and is typically associated with the sort of childish immaturity that becomes obvious upon examination. Road rage is just another way of saying your inner child is having a temper tantrum.

The truth is that everyone else is in the exact same situation in rush hour and getting upset will not make the traffic move any faster. Anger doesn't make cars go. So why trouble yourself over something that isn't fun in the first place only to make things more miserable in the process? At a certain level, getting upset in heavy traffic serves no real purpose other than to reinforce a certain feeling of specialness. The expectation and attachment to the belief of entitlement has been threatened and the experience of a change in the status quo of getting your way creates the negative emotion of anger.

When unwanted change occurs, getting upset is simply a choice, a strategy for dealing with a challenging situation. One of many possibilities. There are always other choices that are more empowering.

In fact, change can be wonderful and embracing change is a excellent choice or strategy. Change represents the unknown. Yet, most of us have been conditioned at a very deep level to fear the unknown. As the remarkable spiritual teacher Krishnamurti said, "Why should one be afraid of the unknown, when you know nothing about it?" It is unknown. In order to be afraid or upset we must be upset by ‘something' and if it is unknown then there is literally nothing to be upset by. What we tend to do is project our fears upon the unknown and become upset by our own projections. We take our thoughts and beliefs and project them into some outcome or situation and then react to them. What we do is end up fearing our own projections. We ‘afraid' ourselves!

But if change represents the unknown then it is heartening to realize that the unknown represents infinite potential. And that in that infinite potential there is just as much positive possibility, as well.

There is a wonderful Taoist teaching tale that illustrates managing change exceptionally well.

There once was a sagely farmer who had a beautiful plow horse. One day the horse broke loose and ran away into the hills. All the villagers said, "How unfortunate!" And the wise farmer said, "We'll see." A few days later the horse returned and brought with him a second horse, and all the villagers said, "How fortunate you are!" And the farmer said, "We'll see." Soon after the farmer's son, while trying to tame the second horse for plowing was thrown and broke his leg. All the villagers said, "That's so unfortunate!" And the farmer said, "We'll see." Within the week, the king's men came to take the son off to war but they couldn't because he was lame, and all the villagers said, "My how fortunate!" And the farmer said once more, "We'll see..."

Clearly the wise farmer understands the nature of embracing change. When things change we never really know how things will turn out or what positive gifts may lie in the seeming negative experiences we have in life. Likely the farmer wasn't happy about losing a horse or having a son break a leg, but he also knew there was nothing he could do about that which had already happened. When change occurs and one can simply accept what IS then a kind calm settled feeling comes over one. It doesn't mean you like a ‘bad' situation, rather, it means you realize that a ‘bad' situation isn't worth having negative feelings and its time to do something about it...or not. Freedom! Besides, who knows what the next moment brings.

Exercise: Reality is about what you focus your attention on, what you ‘attend' to in any given moment. So, next time you experience some unwanted change, no matter how small or large, take a second and see if you can ask yourself one or more of the following questions:

1. What's funny about this situation?
2. What's potentially positive about this situation?
3. How will I feel about this situation 1 year from now?
4. What belief do I have to have to feel this upsetment?
5. How old do I feel right now?

You might just find that your answers to any of the questions above reframe your perspective until you experience a much more empowering orientation to Reality and are then able to embrace change.

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