Change: Death and Transformation

Many of us simultaneously desire and fear change. We want to grow and develop in ways that only change can bring, yet we are anxious and uncertain when that time comes. This can show up in varying ways and in different aspects of our lives—like having to find a new way to a destination because of roadwork, or starting a new job. And it can be present in even more profound ways, such as fear and uncertainty of the final change we must all experience—death itself.

Freud said that our deepest fear is the fear of death. If the fear of dying is intimately intertwined with our fear of change, we are actually facing that fear each time we approach change. Every time something new comes into our lives, something dies. That is simply the nature of things.

Consciously facing and navigating the small births and deaths that make up our lives is an art. The more skilfully we learn to flow with the changes life brings us, the better equipped we will be to make that ultimate transition called death.

Identifying Change
Change has a special quality to it. It is not necessarily a logical, rational outcome of what has come before. True change has the quality of stepping out of the known, the logical or the rational that arrives at conclusions based on that which has preceded it.

Change is often the result of a new, unexpected force that is acting on our lives. That force may be internal, such as an insight or inner shift. It can also be external, such as the force that comes when we fall in love. Often, it is the result of these internal or external forces acting on us that propel us into this unknown, non-rational, non-linear dimension.

Two approaches to Change
Many of us try to control the unknown, variable quality of change by trying to manipulate it. We try to use our mind to project into the future what could or should happen. Then, based on what we decide “should” happen, we worry that it won’t. We spend enormous amounts of energy trying to figure out how we can manage things in order to ensure that change happens according to the plan we created. This, more than the change itself, is what drains our life energy.

By trying to control the way change happens, we run the risk of losing the transformational potential inherent in it. When we control change, we use the mind—which is programmed by past conditioning—to make choices about the future. Whatever those changes are, they tend to be made in reference to the past.

The second type of change is that which we allow to happen. We may manage it a little here and there, and we may even have a general idea about the direction that change is moving in. But there is no attachment to the specifics of how the change has to show up in order for it to be considered “successful”. We simply move in a certain direction, and allow for the unexpected to show itself.

This is the realm of the unknown. It is the place where true transformation occurs. What comes from the unknown is not a product of the past; it is not a product of a mind that is programmed by the past. It is the place where the divine can enter our lives and transformation happens from that place beyond the confines of the logical mind.

Making Space for Change
It is natural that we fear the unknown because when things are not predictable, we cannot manage our environment with our mind as we habitually tend to do. To use change to its maximum transformational potential, we need to notice the presence of fear. And in that recognition, accept the invitation to let go of the mind and simply enter into the experience (of change) as it unfurls moment to moment.

No matter how much we plan for change, it always unfolds in the same way, from one moment to the next. The more that we can fully give ourselves to each of those moments, the more capable we are to read and flow with the current of our lives. And the less stressed and more at ease we will feel.

Making space for change is making space for grace where the unexpected and the non-linear enters in. Letting go of the mind makes space for the divine to act as a powerful force in our lives. One is not exclusive of the other; we need only to be clear and open for it to move and flow within us.

By Kamini Desai, Ph.D.

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Yoga Therapy I: The Marriage of Yoga and Body Psychology
Yoga Therapy II: Advanced Yoga Therapy Practices for Certification
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