Have you ever gone to your supermarket and discovered that they’ve moved things around so that the marmalade’s no longer in the same familiar place and you can’t find the eggs? Supermarkets move items around to break our habit of taking the usual route and buying the same stuff every week so that we come across different products that they would like us to buy. Although this may be good for the retailer, it’s frustrating for the shopper.
There are certain things in life that we want to remain constant and some things that we would rather change.
Change exists all around us, in the cycles of the seasons, day and night as the earth orbits the sun and the tides and lunar cycles of the moon. There’s change within our own bodies: from the long phases of life as we develop and grow older, to each unique breath and heartbeat and at a lower level, scientists tell us that around 60 billion cells die and are replaced in an average adult every day.
When we encounter a change in our lives it’s natural to feel a bit threatened by uncertainty; after all, evolution wired our brains to look out for threats in our environment. If the change is positive, then we may feel a sense of freedom and happiness. However, if the change triggers our threat response we can easily react automatically, feeling the impulse to resist or avoid the change. Without awareness, we tend to fall back on our automatic ways of coping from the past. We can also find ourselves identifying with negative beliefs and worrying thoughts as well as experiencing anxiety, fear, and anger about the change.
When we encounter change it can be useful to explore positive outcomes. When we reflect on the path our life has taken, the chances are that we’ll be able to identify positive changes in direction that followed times of unwanted or difficult change.
Practising mindfulness is also about change. For instance, it can help us to break free of old habits and beliefs that limit or no longer serve us. We can become more aware of the subtlety and interplay between our mind, emotions, body, and senses. Mindfulness also allows us to shift from reacting automatically to responding skilfully with flexibility and openness. It’s also interesting that mindfulness research shows that the practice actually changes the way our brains are wired, to improve emotional regulation and resilience.
Ways of using mindfulness to proactively help us work through change include:
- Fully accepting and embracing the reality of the change
- Working with emotions like fear, anxiety, and anger – allowing what we feel without automatically acting out the emotion, and bringing kindness and self-compassion to the change
- Seeing that all things, including emotions, arise play-out and pass away and that what feels painful now will not last forever
- Not getting caught up in our mind and feelings by knowing that we’re not our thoughts, emotions or physical sensations
- Anchoring ourselves in a place of stability and balance when everything else seems to be shifting and changing
The organisations we work in are often changing in response to a new strategy, or to reduce costs and improve efficiency. We may change jobs, role, teams, organisation, or even career. We may also have parallel changes going on in our personal lives. So how we work with change as it occurs in our lives can make a real difference to our health, happiness, and well-being.
- Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
- Play the first settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps.
- Then close your eyes while this meditation plays, to explore and experience a mindful approach to accepting and responding to change with flexibility and openness.
Suggested weekly practice
- Notice things that are changing in your life, as well as the things that remain relatively constant.
- Embrace and accept the change as you anchor yourself in the body and senses while acknowledging both the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of the change with the same welcoming attitude.
- However negative the change may appear, see if you can explore some positive outcomes on the other side of the change.
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