Opening to the possibility of change is essential to your psychological development, but like many people you may be resistant to being changed in a profound way. However, you can learn to be more skillful when it comes to change by applying mindfulness. Bringing mindfulness to the inner calling for change enables you to stay true to your underlying values in what is a time of uncertainty.
The mindfulness approach to change assumes that your most important task is to free yourself from those inner afflictions that obscure your true nature. On a practical level, mindfulness can help you avoid grasping after goals or desires that would merely substitute one unhealthy situation for another.
Think back: have you ever experienced a change in your life that mysteriously transformed you? Did you feel more authentic to yourself? All kinds of change—in your environment, health, career, or relationships—can bring about such change in you, if you allow it.
Are you unwilling to be changed?
Here are a few reasons why you may resist being changed:
•The initial change is not positive, whether it’s a health crisis, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job.
•Fear of the unknown. We often have more fear than we acknowledge. That fear is understandable. You don’t have to be ashamed of that fear, but you don’t have to believe it either.
•Old habits die hard. Your habits are engrained, sometimes from early childhood. Often we cling to our identity, and to be changed by change might threaten our “story.”
•You don’t truly believe core change is possible. It may not have occurred to you that fundamental parts of yourself can change.
•You don’t know how to make yourself available to change.
How can you change?
•The first step is to simply be willing to be changed by change and stay mindful of it. Sometimes all it takes is setting an intention.
• Without judging yourself, become mindful of your fixed views, old habits, and inner attitudes that resist change.
• Ask yourself what would being changed by change look like in your life? What would being changed by change feel like? You can answer that by remembering times when you really felt transformed in some way or you witnessed change in a child, spouse, parent, sibling, or friend.
• Have a sense of humor. Be amused by how you trick yourself, how you distract yourself, and how you can rationalize resisting change. When you treat your life like a situation comedy, fear has less power.
When you’ve really been changed by change, you end up feeling more like yourself. You may initially feel anxious about experiencing some unpleasant situations, but chances are you will end up feeling more authentically you.
FOR YOUR REFLECTION
1. Think about the times when you’ve made major changes in your life. Would you say that you’re comfortable with change? Are you slow or quick to react when you realize there’s a need for change? What about change makes you most fearful?
2. In which areas of your life (i.e., job, family, friends, relationship with your significant other) do you deal well with change and in which areas are you weak? “Practice” getting better at making change by choosing an issue from your area of greatest weakness and making it the focus of your mindfulness practice.
3. Begin to notice the truth of anicca (that everything that is based on conditions is always changing) during your daily life. See for yourself that you navigate in a constantly changing stream. If you persist, you will feel more at ease with change over time.
4. Think back to a time when you were not skillful in dealing with change. Did you have compassion for yourself? Or did you judge yourself harshly? Did the harsh judgment serve you in any way? It is crucial that you be able to discern when you are being skillful with change and when you are not. There is a difference between discernment and harsh judgment; can you feel the difference?