As we know, the one thing we can depend on in life is change. What I’ve learned in my years as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating trauma is that it makes a big difference if we have time to prepare for change. When life brings unexpected changes, it’s often much more difficult to meet and adapt to those kinds of change in a relatively comfortable way. In my years of teaching Somatic Experiencing, one of the many important things I have learned is that readiness allows our nervous system to meet and move through change in ways that tend to be less traumatic compared to what we experience when something unexpected jumps into our experience.
At the moment, I’m having a daily mindfulness practice of recognizing that a large building is about to go up outside my apartment and, after 20 years of enjoying a view of sky through all my windows, I will now lose a large portion of that delicious view. Because I’ve had about two years to prepare myself for this change, I have found myself relishing the beautiful presence of sky in my living space in an ever-deepening way. I’ve also regularly reminded myself that this isn’t just my loss. I acknowledge to myself that in buildings all around my neighborhood, people will lose their familiar views as a 40-story building slowly emerges from what has been an open space for many, many years.
I have also found myself pondering the difference between adapting to a change that I can’t do anything about, as in a building going up, versus a change that can and does require a response to either attempt to prevent it or to help it to happen. When do I struggle with change I can’t prevent and when do I allow myself to meet what’s coming with as much awareness and resilience as I can? And, do I notice that my relationship to something I know is going to be lost becomes richer with appreciation or do I withdraw and disconnect even before I have to?
For this week’s practice I invite you to pay attention to your relationship to change, beginning with noticing your initial responses to discovering that something is changing. Also notice how you manage the experience when change comes upon you without warning and how different that can be from change you know about ahead of time. And, how is it for you to simply know that change is unavoidable? Does this awareness bring you more alive to your everyday experience or does it cause stress or distress? One of the elements of change may be grief, so how is it to allow that to be a natural part of your process of adapting? And, when change is in a direction that you know is harmful to yourself or others, how do you respond? Do you seek some action that can counter it or do you go into collapse and a sense of helplessness?
As with all these practices, there aren’t any right answers to these questions. Instead, this is on more opportunity to explore how your responses to what arises in your life experience add to, or detract from, the quality of your inner life. Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat on the head any judgments that may arise, not giving them much attention. It’s always helpful to take a moment to check out whether any given thought brings you helpful and useful information, or if it is a symptom of activation and really just needs to be allowed to arise, move through, and move on.