Accepting change is never easy for any of us. But change is the nature of the universe; nothing stays the same. Mary Burmeister, who brought Jin Shin Jyutsu to the West, used to say that ‘movement is harmony’, referring to the energy in our bodies which should flow easily but all too often stagnates, causing mental or physical discomfort. I like to think of this phrase whenever I become aware that I am trying to hold on to something in my life, and remind myself that change is essential, even when it may lead us in unforeseen directions, and take us away from people, places and circumstances we have known and loved.
At times, change can be hugely exciting and feel totally positive – a new opportunity coming our way. But at other times, the change is not of our making; it is thrust upon us against our will, and it is hard to see the bright side. And yet, so many times we can look back, even years after the event, and realise what that change was making way for.
And if the change is for somebody else, but affects us, it is easy for us to feel left behind, more concerned with how it affects us rather than them. We can forget to truly be glad for them, and to rejoice in their opportunity, whilst we are too caught up in our own reaction, our own emotions. Our challenge, then, at such times is to be grateful for the times we have shared, to treasure the memories that we have, whilst somehow managing to flow with the changing tide of our lives. And, seeing the bigger picture, we can genuinely be pleased for those we love when they need to move on, rather than trying to hold on to the way we wanted things to be.
So much of our pain is caused by holding on – to feelings, possessions, people (who we often treat as if they are possessions). If we could learn to let go more easily, accepting that everything changes and evolves over time, perhaps even making room for a new and equally exciting phase of our lives, we would have an easier time emotionally. And when the pain does feel too much to bear, we allow ourselves to truly feel the intensity of that pain so that it can, in its own time, lessen its grip on our heart.
Pema Chodron talks of the way in which pain wakes us up, cracking us open with the ‘sheer force of whatever energy arises’ (‘When Things Fall Apart’ p23) and allowing us to recognise the oneness between us all, fostering our growing sense of compassion – maitri, or loving-kindness.
I have just finished reading a short story by Rachel Joyce, ‘A Faraway Smell of Lemon’, which beautifully evokes the way in which we need to open ourselves to the pain of changes we might never have chosen, to accept the fundamental impermanence of everything in our lives. I don’t want to spoil the story, but would love to include a quote from the end of the story, where the protagonist is reflecting that:
No matter how much she rails, some things are gone forever….. So why, then, do we behave as if everything we have blessed with our loving should be ours for keeps? It is enough to have tiptoed to that space beyond the skin, beyond the nerve endings, and to have glimpsed things that beforehand we only half knew.
This is a very short story but one which it is worth taking time over. There are great insights too into the way mindfulness of our everyday activities can help us by providing an anchor in times of difficulty, soothing a troubled and pained mind.