Respect for Change

You are tired, you are injured or you are stressed.  The way you have been living of late, even the way you have been practising yoga, is no longer serving you.  You keep coming at things from the same angle as has always worked for you, but now it is like banging your head against a brick wall and the wall will not give.  Your asana practice, which used to nourish you, has become dry and difficult, or else it niggles your injury in spite of your best efforts to work carefully around it; your meditation practice no longer feels alive; you are frustrated, or perhaps you feel low.  It feels as though the solution to your difficulty is just out of reach, so in the meantime you carry on doing what you have always done.  It has always worked for you before, so why not now?

But you are lucky, because part of your yoga practise is about insight: the self-awareness and understanding that comes from sitting quietly with yourself and observing your patterns of behaviour, both positive and negative.  You are blessed that you have the means, first for noticing that you are stuck and second for working out what on earth to do about it.

So, with time (but often not without having exacerbated your injury / fallen further into depression or anxiety / bruised your head from all that banging against the brick wall) you realise that you are attached to the way you have been living and practising and that you are finding it hard to let go of an old way of doing things and move on to a new approach.  You are coming up against the need for change and you are resisting it.

Who can say why this is?  Where and why our resistance to change, even positive change, comes from?  Life is constant change, but human beings find this hard to accept, we like to keep ourselves safe and therefore make our lives predictable; that way we know where we are and can trust that we're not going to be thrown into a situation that we will find hard to handle.  We know, intellectually, that there is no halting change and that some of it is positive, but when it comes to letting go of the old and embracing the new we come up against some pretty basic fears.

We are afraid of the unknown.  What if things get worse before they get better?  What if things get worse and stay worse!  We cannot possibly know what implications changing our lives will have and so it can take us a long time (and a lot of suffering) before we get round to changing things.  Sometimes it feels easier to hold on to old patterns that aren't working any more than to trust that change could make the future better. 

We are afraid of loss.  What might we have to let go of in order to encompass the changes we need?  What might have to die in order for our new choices to emerge?  These losses are not always tangible; for example, you might lose your role of always being the reliable one in your family - you've always liked being that person, it makes you feel wanted and secure; but always being the one that everyone turns to in a crisis might be making you ill, or might be impractical now that you have children of your own, or you might simply have realised that the more you go around saving everyone else, the less likely your loved ones are to be responsible for themselves. 

We are attached to what we have had.  You might long for a less hectic and stressful working life, but be attached to the financial status that you have in your current career.  You might associate having a fast car, a big house or a sharp suit with success; you might even use that outward show of material success to hide inner insecurities.  There are often quite profound reasons why we are unable to let go of things - it can cause is to reflect on some deeply held beliefs and vulnerabilities.

I know yogis who have to go to the chiropractor every month to have their backs put back into line, but are so attached to their traditional practice that they prefer constantly harming themselves to seeking new ways of working with asana.

I know people who are stuck in the rut of repeating old patterns in relationships that lead to unhappiness and loneliness, who need to find a way to give a valid voice to their needs and make themselves heard.

I know people whose jobs make them ill, yet who carry on day in day out, as if they did not have a choice, as if there is no way of ever being content and happy in your working life.

I know myself and how I have done variations of all those things for fear of change.

It is true that when we turn over a new leaf in our lives, we lose forever that page on which some of our happiest times and greatest achievements are written; but it is also true that we cannot write the full story of our lives within the confines of one little page.  Our lives deserve to be writ large and this means being brave enough to turn the page when necessary. 

When things that have been good for us fall apart, it is often so that something better can fall into place.  You just have to be brave and (depending on your disposition and the seriousness of your situation) put a big toe in the water of change / close your eyes, take a breath and jump / or dive in head first and see what happens.

One thing is for certain, if you are injured, stressed, or otherwise at a low ebb and have been for some time, your life is trying to tell you something .  First listen, then follow.  You know what to do and you will do it all in good time, because once you are on this path the only way is forward.


Thank you to Helen for writing about her injury so perceptively and for inspiring this blog x


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