Over recent months, I have found myself painfully aware of everything I throw in the trash in the course of my everyday life. Being a long-time recycler, I’ve always been mindful of my use of paper, bottles, cans, and other recyclables. Lately, I’ve been aware of all the plastic that lands in my trashcan, with new additions just about every day. About a year ago, I started shopping with canvas bags and stopped using small plastic bags for produce at the grocery store. While these steps won’t save the planet, they do cut down on the amount of plastic that moves through and from my home.
This deepened awareness of plastic, and all the photos we now see of what plastics are doing to the inhabitants of our oceans and other waterways, got me to thinking about the natural capacity we humans have to generate options when confronted by circumstances that demand change.
Confronted as we are by mounting evidence that our current lifestyle cannot continue unchanged, I got to thinking about the importance of our innate curiosity, flexibility, and ability to generate options when circumstances require change. Drawing on these skills as part of everyday living is like engaging in exercise each day. It builds a kind of “psychological muscle” that allows curiosity, flexibility, and an ability to generate options to become more readily and spontaneously available as part of how we engage the world around us.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to play with cultivating your natural curiosity, flexibility, and skill in generating options when you bump up against things that require a change of plan, direction, response, or whatever. Doing this with small things that come your way offers an opportunity to experience the sense of well-being that comes when you can meet change with the internal sense of confidence that you are equipped to meet the challenge.
A small and mundane example in my life was when I decided to bring three cats into my living space after quite a number of years living without any felines. The flexibility required of me was to be willing to change my quiet sanctuary into a cat-oriented living space. It meant giving up some of the things that had been important and dear to me, like certain houseplants who had lived with me for many years, the ability to regularly have beautiful flowers on my altar, and a certain uncluttered neatness I preferred. There was nothing earth-shattering in this change, but, for me, it required a degree of curiosity, flexibility, and generating options in order to accomplish the shift.
For sure, some circumstances are easier to meet with flexibility than others. Some are both life-changing and life-threatening, so it’s important not to be self-critical if you encounter a situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed or unable to generate options you would prefer. The key to this week’s practice is simply to explore and play with your relationship with curiosity, flexibility, and generating options as a way to make these responses increasingly available as your individual and collective experiences meet the inevitable challenges that come with a changing world.
As always, please be sure to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise. Judgments are inevitable; our response to them isn’t. It helps to remember that all self-talk is actually self-hypnosis, so developing the ability to let judgments and self-criticism move on through when they arise offers freedom from ever-escalating discomfort.