Change does not come easily to us. In fact, we resist it at every turn. We become set in our ways, and either we fear a change, or we dig our heels in, not wanting to let go of what we know despite the fact that what we “know” may be unbelievably uncomfortable if not the primary cause of our suffering.
It takes a lot of courage to make a change. Whether this is a monumental effort or a tiny step, the amount of inner resolve to alter our course in life can be enormous. Perhaps we want to change a bad habit, or introduce a good one. Perhaps we have come to realize we need to leave a job, or a relationship. Or we have come to accept that perhaps those wine-coolers before lunch are starting to be a problem; or the pain medications ran out a long time ago replaced by far more dangerous relief.
The first thing we encounter when presented by the notion of change is resistance. The defenses we have built around our egos are walls of fear casting shadows of doubt around us. We may know that our choice is “change or die” but there is almost inevitably something inside that whispers “Die – don’t change!”
According to author Robert Quinn, making a deep change involves “walking naked into the land of uncertainty.” A powerful statement that speaks of our vulnerability and the potential opportunity to emerge with stability and strength.
From the Buddhist point of view, the practice of meditation and the path of Dharma affords us the opportunity to be on a journey that leads us to becoming who we already are. It is almost a remembering of what we forgot to remember. And what we forgot was ourselves.
In the Buddhist practice, we accept the call to change as an encouragement to allow the layers of illusion to fall away. In the words of Jack Kornfield, “We begin to see that it is often just a matter of remembering and reminding ourselves of the different ways that we are brought to freedom and joy in our own lives.”
Awareness is the first step to change. And from there, we can examine the nature of what we are holding on to, what we are resisting. What are we unwilling to relinquish? What are we afraid will happen? What is giving us pause?
“We begin to see that it is often just a matter of remembering and reminding ourselves of the different ways that we are brought to freedom and joy in our own lives.” Jack Kornfield
Examining our defenses with self-love and an open heart – not making judgements or berating ourselves – is the process we use to let go what might be holding us back. When we sit in meditation and allow the thoughts of discomfort to arise, we can look at them objectively and ask ourselves, “Can I see this differently?” and “What is underneath this resistance, and this thought, and this defense?”
Each step leads us closer to the underlying truth of why we might be unwilling to launch ourselves headlong into a change. Fear is usually the starting point; but what lies under the fear? And under that?
Each layer revealed helps us to reach the inner truth of our self – a remembering and reminding of the nature of who we are. In the Buddhist tradition, this is a pure and wonderful self – one that we tend to resist, preferring to believe that we are damaged or somehow flawed. As Marianne Williamson aptly wrote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”
When we begin to accept that dynamic and beautiful self “beyond measure”, we break down the wall of fear and throw a light on the shadows of our doubts. That first recognition may bring us to tears – realizing that we have withheld self-love for so long that it wove a tapestry of warped self-views; but the tears that arise are a cleansing balm that we need to rinse the resistance and open us to that “freedom and joy” we have longed for.
If we are facing a change, whether it is a small step or a perceived walk off a cliff, having faith that the courage is within us to be present to what arises, and to emerge victorious is the victory itself.