Change Is Fantastic! Reframing Unexpected Surprises, Detours, and Obstacles October 30, 2023 18:15
If you prefer to listen to this month's blog offering, please click HERE for the audio link.
I was driving in the car, headed to a dental appointment a few weeks ago. I was half-listening to an NPR interview with a scientist. I was taking an alternate route due to a massive construction project on I-465 and was laser-beam focused on driving. However, I heard a phrase that made me stop, literally, and pay attention.
The scientist being interviewed said, “Change is fantastic!”
My first thought was, that would make an excellent mantra! What a wonderful way to reframe unexpected surprises, detours, and obstacles.
Hearing this woman’s words changed (for the better) the rest of my commute. I was no longer thinking about the extra time that this alternate route was taking. Instead, I was able to appreciate the light traffic and fall scenery. My trip felt more like an adventure and an exploration than an inconvenience.
Not only did I arrive a few minutes early for my appointment, but I also discovered a new route in the process.
Most of us find change to be an unnerving, annoying inconvenience—sometimes, change can even seem terrifying. We often have a negative reaction to change, especially if we have expectations or attachments connected to the situation.
We leave for work only to discover our car has a flat tire.
We spill coffee on our laptop.
The power goes out in the middle of our Zoom meeting.
These unexpected twists and turns can, and do, happen at times, but humans are resilient. We are designed to adapt because we live in a world where change is a constant, unpredictable companion.
The good news is, the more we practice reframing unexpected changes with the mantra, “Change is fantastic!” the more effectively we can navigate even more serious changes like illness, death, natural disasters, and war.
The natural world is a beautiful reminder of the perpetual and cyclic nature of change.
At this time of year, deciduous trees in my town are bursting with color, and I love watching their leaves flutter to the ground. Soon, the air will be cold, and their branches will be bare—there is beauty in bare branches, too.
Change is Fantastic!
Flocks of birds are migrating south. Collectively, they undulate in waves across darkening skies streaked with the bold colors of autumn sunsets.
Change is Fantastic!
The squirrels in my yard are busy collecting and hiding acorns for the upcoming winter months. They, too, are preparing for fantastic changes.
Granted, some changes are easier to appreciate than others.
Celebrating birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations are just a few examples. It’s easy to recognize and rejoice the fantastic nature of these milestones.
I’ve worked in a high school setting for over three decades, and while most seniors look forward to graduation at the end of the school year, each year there are a few who dread it. These students have grown attached and accustomed to school life—the structure, the expectations, the routines and schedules. Even though they may complain about the workload (or the food in the cafeteria), school for them is predictable, familiar, and safe.
Some students are so resistant to change that they sabotage their own future success by failing key classes so they can’t graduate. For them, moving forward into new situations, opportunities, and circumstances is too uncomfortable or frightening. They believe that if they don’t graduate, their lives won’t have to change. Self-sabotage and stubborn stagnation are not effective coping mechanisms for navigating growth and progress. Unfortunately, these heart-breaking strategies aren’t just limited to seniors in high school.
Life is change!
While some changes are more comfortable to experience than others, even the lessons that devastating changes bring can be meaningful and profound.
Changes such as dealing with an illness, a sudden death, violent crime, war, or a devastating earthquake, flood, or wildfire—these are truly fantastic changes—but they don’t feel very fantastic. Instead, they can be overwhelming and traumatic.
These larger-than-life changes are formidable reminders of the importance of compassion and interdependence. Often, during profoundly difficult times, people come together to offer aid, support, and comfort. This interconnection enables us to see that what we do matters, and that our actions ripple and reach, creating an intricate tapestry of connections.
Such dramatic and jarring changes can also lead to equally dramatic realizations, understanding, and the motivation to act and respond in resourceful, beneficial ways. Big changes help us to see the bigger picture and the longer view.
Human beings are both fragile and resilient—vulnerable and strong. By accepting that change will be our constant companion throughout our lives, and by welcoming small changes with a light-hearted, open-minded attitude, these strategies can help us enjoy our current journey and prepare for bigger obstacles that may lie ahead.
As I was walking from the parking lot into school this morning, I noticed that the temperature had dropped by twenty degrees during my commute. The jacket that I was wearing wasn’t quite warm enough for this environmental change. However, the walk from my car to the front door was a short one, and I had a mantra that was just perfect for this situation: “Change is fantastic!”
Thank you for reading or listening to this month's offering. If you would like to embrace the upcoming, fantastic changes in your life with the help of a new mala, feel free to visit the latest MMM collection while you're here. I've added several new designs since Wellbeing Fest.
Embracing the Benefits of Fall: Learning to Let Go October 29, 2022 14:06
If you would prefer to listen to this month's blog offering, please click HERE for the audio link.
This autumn season is blazing with color in Indiana. The maples and oaks are letting go of their leaves in brilliant red, orange, gold, and sepia colors. Nature is throwing a party, and everyone is invited.
While I'm enjoying this colorful season, I'm also grappling with an undercurrent of anxiety. A few factors are contributing to this mild, but steady uneasiness.
1. I have a trip of a lifetime coming up in mid November. A group of dharma friends and I will be traveling to India in a few weeks. We'll be attending an important ceremony at a monastery in South India, and then we'll be headed to Dharamshala to attend a live teaching with H.H. the Dalai Lama.
I have been fussing with the details and preparations for this trip for months: securing a visa, arranging for required vaccinations, thinking about what to pack (for two climates), downloading necessary travel apps, etc. I have been navigating feelings of anticipation and excitement as well as the worry of uncertainty.
2. This trip occurs during a time when I usually attend an important event as a vendor. Because my mala biz is online, and I don't have a brick and mortar shop, attending events like Indy Holistic Hub's Wellbeing Fest in Indianapolis helps to boost my success and sustainability, and it also allows people in the community to see and purchase my malas in person.
As a result, I've been grappling with uncertainties about my business. I've been questioning and ruminating about whether what I do is relevant. I've been worrying about where I can find those who appreciate what I do--and where they can find me, so that they can use these malas to not only benefit their own personal practice, but they can also be of benefit to others.
I've been grappling with feelings of doubt and of not feeling worthy or relevant.
3. I recently attended an event earlier this month hosted by Shades of Becoming a Mom, Inc. It was a wonderful, meaningful ceremony dedicated to women and families who had experienced pregnancy, infant, or child loss.
In preparation for this event, I had created several quarter malas made with gemstones suited for dealing with grief and healing from loss. I was grateful to sell a few of them, and I was also very grateful to be invited to participate as a vendor at this event. I met some kind-hearted, gracious people.
However, those seeds of doubt and worry surfaced again. I was comparing this event to the Wellbeing Fest from last year, which is not a fair comparison at all. The audiences and intentions of these events are completely different--and making comparisons only makes me spiral into hopelessness and dread.
4. I am still trying to overcome my conditioning to believe that being busy and productive are marks of success. I taught English at a large high school for nearly twenty years. In this environment, I was frenetically, frantically busy--too busy, really...
too busy to think
too busy to enjoy what I was doing
too busy to have time with my family
too busy to have any kind of restorative personal practices
too busy to effectively take care of myself
This level of chaotic effort was not healthy or helpful for me or anyone around me. In many ways, I felt like a useless failure during this time.
Thankfully, I transferred to a smaller school in the same district, and things did improve, at first. I wasn't as stressed, and I felt like what I was doing (teaching young people to think and write and reflect) mattered. Even though I was teaching in a smaller school, and the work environment was more healthy and supportive, it didn't take long for the commitments and pressures of teaching--the endless initiatives, the daily meetings, the constant stream of collecting data and proctoring various standardized tests--all the things that interfered rather than enhanced teaching--all of these things took over like kudzu--and I felt that stranglehold pull of stress, anxiety, and doubt once again.
About ten years ago, I transitioned to a part-time tutoring position at this same small school. Once again, things improved.
I had more time to help students one-on-one. Because this is a part-time position, I also had time to take care of myself. I had time to read, to spend time with my family, to practice yoga and Feldenkrais lessons, to travel to Bloomington for dharma talks, to create malas--and to start my mala business. For the first time, my life felt balanced.
Fall is a season of facing and celebrating change. Each year, month, day, moment is different from those that came before, and I have a choice about how to approach these constant changes.
Instead of planting seeds of doubt and worry about traveling to new, exciting places, not selling malas, missing an event that I can attend next year, I am taking inspiration from these beautiful fall leaves and giving myself permission to let go of expectations, attachments, patterns, behaviors, and thoughts that no longer serve me.
I don't need to be so busy that I can't think clearly or take care of myself and others.
I don't have to sell X number of malas or put unnecessary pressure on myself to feel as though I matter.
I don't need to do more or exert unnecessary effort in order to feel productive or relevant.
This fall season is speaking to me, and the trees in my front yard are modeling what I need to do--to let go--to rest--to restore.
They are encouraging me to recognize and acknowledge the wisdom and confidence that I already have within me--and to have faith that a new growing season is coming.
They are reminding me to trust that the right people will find me and the malas on my online shop.
They are validating that what I do matters in a quiet way--and that what I do will encourage others to find their own paths as well.
Creativity can't be forced, and endless effort is not productive. It often leads to burnout and exhaustion. This fallow time is necessary, and it's giving me more time to devote to other interests and adventures.
I am embracing change during this beautiful season. In a couple of weeks, I will be going to India. I have never been there before, and I don't have any expectations or comparisons. I am open to having an adventure with my dharma friends and receiving any benefits that may come our way.
I am leaving my worries, doubts, and neurotic musings behind. May they drift to the ground like dry leaves and drift away with the wind, or sink into brown grass and nourish the soil underneath.
I look forward to sharing more details about this trip with you soon.
In the meantime, if you feel compelled to purchase a mala from the online shop, now is actually a good time. I am more than happy to send them your way before I depart.
May you reap the benefits of this beautiful season as well, and may these words and malas be of benefit.