When you think about it, life is full of endings and beginnings. The different schools, places we have lived, relationships, the twists and turns of our work life, and the different phases of life. Every story, film, book, and song, and every breath and heartbeat have a beginning and an ending. As the sun sets and rises every morning to begin a new day, nothing lasts for ever; permanence is relative, and everything is subject to change.
The recent news about buildings built in the UK between the 1950s to 1980s with a lightweight form of concrete known as RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete), is a good example of impermanence in action. When these buildings were constructed the architects and local authorities failed to take the limited life of the construction material into account. Following two unexpected roof failures, this issue is now affecting 150 schools and 34 hospitals.
When we come to the end of something, especially something significant, we sometimes find ourselves resisting change that threatens a familiar comfort zone. We can easily become attached to our routines, which creates a bit of turbulence in our lives when they eventually change. Of course, there are some endings that we are excited about, that give us freedom and make us happy. In those cases, it’s often not the loss of something, but the opportunities of new beginnings. Even endings that make us feel loss and sadness can be opportunities for positive development and growth.
Ways of working skilfully with unwanted change include:
- Being open and aware of the resistance to change in our body, emotions, and thoughts.
- Becoming friendly with any feelings of stress, anxiety, anger, or sadness to do with the change, so we can see it for what it is, an automatic and unconscious reaction that is rooted in fear of the unknown and uncertain.
- Acknowledging what we feel, and hearing what emotions are telling us, then allowing them to release in their own time.
- Noticing our identification and attachment to what is threatened by the change
- Fully accepting the change as if we had chosen it.
- Embracing change as a natural part of life and an opportunity for growth and learning.
- Bringing kindness and compassion to yourself and others.
- Finding internal stability and balance – anchored within an embodied and aware presence. Dropping away from the noise and turbulence, to rest in the space and stillness behind the movement.
- Appreciating and feeling gratitude for the present moment and the sense of connection with the people and experiences in our lives.
- Like an experienced canoeist deftly working their way through the white water, skilfully navigating through the change with ease and flexibility.
- Focusing on the positive outcomes, rather than dwelling on potential discomfort.
Although it makes sense to anticipate and plan for the future, we can never experience the reality until the unique moment arrives. So, we will always encounter a level of uncertainty in our future. What’s important is how we relate to and skilfully navigate the change as it arrives.
We can make a significant difference in how we respond to change by practising awareness, acceptance, resilience, and an appreciation for the present moment. By being open and aware, we can develop a more balanced, kinder, and compassionate approach to the inevitable changes that life throws at us.
Suggested weekly practice
- Notice what you resist or push back on during the week. What are you attached to, or identifying with, so strongly that is driving this reaction?
- Reflect on how skilfully, or not, you negotiated recent changes in your life. Where you are like the white-water canoeist, deftly paddling through the turbulent water, or were you overwhelmed and pulled under?
- Remember to bring awareness, acceptance, balance, resilience, and kindness to endings, with openness, flexibility, and a focus on positive outcomes to new beginnings.
Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified, and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware. There are two guided practices for this session. You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
- Play the first settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps.
- Then play the second practice to investigate how we respond to change and rehearse using some mindfulness skills to improve our flexibility and resilience.