The Healthy Mind on CHANGE, or, Therapist finds enchantment in her Inner Geek! What I will outline below in this article are some key points in learning to navigate a world where change is happening at a faster place, and more frequently, to almost everyone, including myself. And trust me, change can be as hard for me as for anyone, even with all my years of training in mindfulness. While in the past change, though difficult, may not have proved overly-daunting to most people, now I am seeing people get truly overwhelmed by change, and not just the the bigger changes, such as moving from one home or city, one job to another, adding another child to the mix, or watching the shifts in our beloved pets/partners. Since change is so much the norm now, it does seem strange it is so difficult for humans to bear–yet I witness this being the case all the time. We have this idea that things should stay the same, as if we were hard-wired for non-change, but not only are our very thoughts and feelings and bodies constantly changing, we seek out distractions or shifts in feelings all the time! I know for myself that because my own nature/constitution has a lot of movement in it (air element/vata dosha), change is both familiar, even comfortable, as well as something to prepare well for, since it can be so destabilizing. Hence, everyday I include practices that help the body and mind, creating the “Healthy Mind on Change:” grounding postures and energy meditations that connect me Gaia and to the elements, to the Tao, and that special something, a Higher Power, that anchors my life.
Techno Change-o. Over the past few years, I’ve had the excruciating experience of having to navigate and adapt to ever-changing shifts in technology, and in material terms, my business has been slammed. Long story short, not heeding the general advice to keep up on the technical “fixes” that plug-ins, updates and constant blogging help with, not gaining enough information to understand–not hearing–that the feedback coming my way meant these things were actually imperative, my website was forced offline and I lost my SEO ranking from 1st page Google to zero! My website had “cooties,” I didn’t realize what that would lead to, I didn’t inquire (there’s the rub) and things just got worse and worse… as they always do when we are not tending to things, nor watching the process of change and remaining in active relationship with it!
That part is key. It’s the past that really points to a Healthy Mind on Change. All this waking up business, this trying to be a more conscious person, we can’t do it in a vacuum. We have to be asking ourselves, “What might I not be aware of today?” –knowing that first and foremost I must open my eyes to see what might be very literally in front of me. Or, especially for couples, open my heart to truly hear what someone is saying to me. But, of course, most of us do not do that. Mostly we go through life in our habitual way, and what might be very obvious to someone outside the system, or what someone seems to be screaming from inside the system, remains unrecognizable to those closest to it…and we don’t recognize the changes occurring because of three main things:
1) The ego hates change and refuses to see what it doesn’t want to see,
2) We “listen but but do not hear” –we interpret what we hear through our own beliefs and value systems, and either dismiss them or don’t give them enough weight,
3) We are pretty much walking around repeating the patterns that we were indoctrinated into as very small children, and from that “young self” we pretend that things are different than they are.
In order to be open to change we have to be in present-moment experiencing mode, and it takes a very alive human being to be totally AWAKE NOW in this day and age. It takes practice, as well, to not be identified solely with the “I” but able to watch the process of the “I” taking over, and then consciously relinquish the ego-stance. Forcing one to be completely present, in a fresh way–that is the gift change offers–the chance to truly see and respond in a new or skillful way to the ever-changing circumstances flowing in our lives. How does one do that? Read on!
There is a way of looking at the possibilities that especially difficult change offers, and it has less to do with responding and more about receiving…about being truly receptive. The sanskrit word rasa means “taste” or “flavor,” and in yoga philosophy, there are 9 rasas, or Ways of Experiencing. The one that I have come to love, because it shifts the energy system immediately, is adbhuta, one translation being an “awe-inspired enchantment of the universe.” In practical terms it has to do with remaining deeply curious, fascinated by whatever life has to offer in any moment. Can you bring to mind certain moments when you have been caught up in wonderment, perhaps at a sound you don’t recognize, or learning something completely new, puzzling over how to put a tool back together, or sensing the energy of a place or a person? What was the feeling, the sensation in the body? Did it feel opened or closed?
When we come to an edge in our experiencing, whether delightful or difficult, if instead of immediately saying, “oh I know what that is,” or, “I can’t do that,” or “I don’t trust that,” or ignoring it altogether, we can remain curious and open-minded, then something gently breaks open inside us, the heart melts a little, and we can sense in our energy system a feeling of being very present. We don’t shut down, or try to shut the experience out, even if it is painful. And in the process we begin to experience ourselves as being Very Alive. If we keep returning to that stance, there is a great possibility that positive feelings may be generated. Like feeling Enchanted…Inspired…Astonished…Energized… I can think of a time when in I was experimenting with a really difficult arm balance in a yoga class of over 100 people, and I was very open, very free, laughing when I fell, making it a game. The New Yorkers around me were extremely suspect of my “antics,” but that didn’t diminish the enchanted way I was feeling–just happy to be there trying something new. Not attached to outcome.
Ok, that may be well and good for when you are presented with a new challenge, or when change shows up completely outside yourself. What about when you are trying to face making an internal change? Or thinking that your loved one needs to make a big change, or they you? What about the process of change regarding difficult behaviors, beliefs, habits or lifestyles? Changing oneself can be a daunting task and sometimes it may even seem impossible. As in any aspect of life, changing the way in which we do things, or see things, takes a process. The first key is developing a willingness to start seeing things as they truly are…One of my favorites titles of a book on Zen Buddhism is The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron. Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy, was famous for asking, “What are you pretending not to know?” Staying open to hearing the truth, from whatever source, takes more than a bit of courage sometimes. This is where surrender comes in. Can you love yourself enough to be free enough to drop what you think you know and allow for a new thought or possibility? Can you let go of the ego and hear from your higher self, or from a loved one, or teacher?
When you do, inevitably, there are changes that you or your loved ones want put into action. That’s what The Process of Change clarifies–that there are steps we must take in order to make lasting changes. To help make sense of this process, two alcoholism researchers, Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska, developed a model they called “The Stages of Change.” This model involves six stages that take a person from the beginning – learning to identify an issue or problem – to the end – creating a different pattern free of the original issue. They are:
Precontemplation: In this stage, an individual may not even recognize that she or he has an issue, or that there is a problem. People are not yet thinking about changing their behavior directly, and may believe that other people are overreacting to them and their behaviors.
Contemplation: This is the openness to consider that an issue exists, and that there may be a need to change one’s behaviors in order to correct the problem. A commitment to change has not yet been made; there is not yet direct action although one may undertake to learn more about the nature of the isuue.
Determination: The person has made a decision to to make a change. Sometimes this Stage is referred to as Preparation, as the person begins planning a course of action to initiate change in her life. This Stage can go on a long time, as the person moves in and out of actively planning the change that is desired.
Action: The person recognizes and admits that the change needs to happen now–that the problem exists–and has developed a specific plan to make changes. He modifies his behaviors, environment, relationships, and experiences to overcome the problem. He puts the plan he made in the Determination stage into action.
Maintenance: Change has been achieved – a pattern of behaviors has been replaced with healthier patterns. In Maintenance, the person recognizes the benefits of successful change, however, because work must still be done as the risks remain for returning to old behaviors, there is diligence in applying the new “practices.”
So, taking my own situation in hand, where am I in the Stages of Change with all my technology stuff? Action and Maintenance! I have done some research, and I am now hot on the pursuit to attain, once again, my status as a well-known West Seattle psychotherapist and Couples Counselor, by upping my knowledge and commitment to the practice of online marketing. I am blogging, posting, and even working on a short video series…and it feels great! Whereas many times in the past I have avoided this kind of work, mostly due to one of my troubled inner selves who was throwing a wrench in the works, today I am embracing it, investigating, learning and even finding some fun it. From a Techno Nightmare to a Tech-Adventure!
Yet, I must confess…I haven’t made a total shift, and haven’t rocked the online world yet with my new strategy. So…I still need your help. I need those of you who would act on my behalf to refer friends, family and people you just met at Starbucks to Four Aims Counseling. My business, due to “the devastating loss of my Google placement,” is drastically down and I need to make ends meet!
Change is hard, but the work I am doing to put a positive spin on this relentless complication feels very empowering. That is the gift of embracing change. You expand your notion of who you are and what you can achieve, and in doing so, you actually start to feel and behave better…more connected, more kind, more helpful…and more happy. Seriously!