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2.10 Practicing Change ~ The Exquisite Risk - Daring to Live an Authentic Life ~ Mark Nepo

Movement 2 - Steering Our Way to Center

Practicing Change

"The things that grow into soul, though they depend on everything, need no one's approval."

  1. There are age-old efforts that often return us to what matters. They include: the effort to keep looking, the effort to stay visible, the effort to stay committed to the moment, the effort to maintain our friendship with all that is eternal, and the effort to stop rehearsing our way through life.
  2. Appearing hand in hand with these EFFORTS OF RETURN are the dynamics of change that often invoke them. In effect, these dynamics of change are STRUGGLE POINTS OF TRANSFORMATION that can serve as thresholds for our passion, moving us closer to Wholeness. Or they can stall us in the painful traps of our desire. It all depends on how we negotiate them. In truth, facing the recurring dynamics of change is a practice unto itself.
  3. There are many ways to describe these dynamics. Here is one way. The need to change presents itself because something in the way we are living no longer works. Our first challenge is: Do we hear it? Once hearing the need for change, do we accept it? Further still, do we resist it? Mostly, we do until the cost is too great. Even when accepting the need to change, there is the inner war of yes and no. And the Hamlet in each of us deliberates and deliberates. But how long do we weigh the costs? Finally, we are faced with the courage to do things differently, despite newness and fear, even if we don't know how. And then, once we try on the new, there is the courage to practice and integrate the change into the fabric of our lives. But, of course, by this time, or not long after, it can all happen again, as some other aspect of our way in the world goes obsolete. So we are called to stay open to this nagging and brilliant process again and again.
  4. The transformational aspects of change seem to arise as unfinished spots in our journey where we can practice applying the deeper things we know well. When I resist the change I need, I try to invoke my commitment to look. When I seem to vanish in my old habits, I try to invoke my  commitment to stay visible.  When I struggle with the courage to try, I work on my commitment to the moment. When I don't know how to integrate what is new, I work on my friendship with all that is eternal. When the whole thing seems unbearable, I try to invoke my commitment to stop rehearsing my way through life.
  5. When we ignore the dynamics of change, we end up lost in the rigor of old habits that once served us well but which have now become life-draining. A powerful example of this is the main character in the movie THE DEER HUNTER. Here we have a man whose almost paranoid alertness and lack of trust are the exact skills he needs to survive the jungles of Vietnam. But once home, he can't change and the very traits that were necessary for his survival in war prevent him from surviving peace. He can't adjust. And can't fit in. He sadly can find no love or comfort or sense of belonging anywhere. He is in exile with the rigors of his warrior self.
  6. A more personal example of this comes from my cancer journey. Growing up, I became adept at fending off unexpected hurts, so that nothing would surprise me. Or at least, when hurt, it would never show. I became masterful at this. I fondly called it my catcher's mitt. I could spin and catch anything from any direction. But once surviving, I realized that this reflex had the better of me and that very little could touch me, for that damn mitt intercepted everything. So I had to spend years putting my mitt down, undoing my reflex to protect myself, so that I could again be touched by life.
  7. As you can see, no one is exempt from this process. So I ask you in this moment. What is changing? What is confusing? What keeps coming up though you keep putting it down? What are you needing to attend but don't know how? What struggle is presenting itself and what effort of return is ready for you to use? Who can you talk to about the dynamics of living?
  8. The value in considering all this is not to calibrate or preplan how we might react to change when we face it tomorrow. For being deliberate or methodical will not always help us negotiate life. However, if we can bring attention and focus to the ways we habitually relate to change, we can be sincere practitioners of what it means to be fully alive. Then, when faced with change, we might react more fluidly, the way a jazz musician practices scales so that when asked to improvise, he moves up and down the notes more naturally without any thought as to where the notes are. In this way, we are asked to trust that, like a serious musician, our practice will soak into us, so that we will engage change more deeply and more naturally when it comes upon us.
  9. In actuality, each human being is an instrument striving to play their unique part in the larger Universal orchestra. And our longing to be whole and our suffering from trying refines us until, by being completely who we are, we assume our place in the larger ensemble of life. If there is a sense of destiny, it is less a predetermined role we each will live into, and more a gravity of being by which we, as living things, are destined to discover our vitality - by accepting our place in the mysterious Whole. Repeatedly, with each elegant measure of time, we are led into deeper ways of being through the counterpoints of change.


Introduction and Table of Contents ~ The Exquisite Risk ~ Daring to...

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