Issue 5: January, 2012
built of flake and flake and flake,
can make your heart believe, for this moment
that it is possible to heal all wounds, soften all jagged edges,
make anywhere home.
~ Tasha Harmon
I wrote that poem in November of 2003, in Syracuse NY, where I was teaching at a national conference. It was a time in my life when I didnâ€™t feel very at home anywhere; my first marriage had ended traumatically three years earlier, the same year Iâ€™d left my job as a nonprofit executive director, and discovered that the health problems Iâ€™d thought would go away once I could rest were instead continuing to evolve in a multi-layered complexity that baffled me and many health care practitioners.
The night I wrote that poem, Iâ€™d been in the basement of the convention center all day, surrounded by noise, people, and fluorescent lights. There were no windows. Iâ€™d had no idea it was snowing until I emerged at dusk to walk back to my hotel. The section of town we were in was ugly â€“ full of concrete and cars. But the snow, falling in big, fat flakes, transformed it, softening the edges, gracefully outlining the bare, spindly trees and the dead flowers in pots, and brightening the air itself. And it did the same for me, opening my heart to grace and brightness, softness and transformation.
I was still grieving, shell-shocked, lonely, and very unsure what my new life was going to look like, but I was starting to feel my way into the possibilities, beginning to find small ways to be joyful again, beginning to suspect that I could, maybe, create a life I would feel at home in.
The snow showers of the last few days have pulled me back into that experience. Just a few minutes of watching the snow come down invites my heart to open again to that softness, and to the possibility that transformation can simply come, as a gift.
But wait, arenâ€™t we supposed to have to work hard to change?
For those of us with strong internal â€œdoers,â€ and strong perfectionist tendencies, the message that change can be about softening, rather than doing hard work to â€œmake it happen,â€ can seem alien â€“ wrong even. I know. I believe in hard work, I mostly trust it to be useful, to make good stuff happen in the world. And often it does.
But right now Iâ€™m relearning the lesson that it is me that is most in the way when I want to change. (This is a lesson I seem to need to relearn regularly.) Iâ€™m noticing, again, that when I try to create internal change by using my habitual approach to doing something that feels â€œhardâ€ â€“ an approach that involves identifying that something is wrong/needs to be fixed or accomplished, making a plan, and then â€œgirding my loinsâ€ and diving into the hard work of implementing the plan â€“ Iâ€¦ hit my own resistance. And Iâ€™m a powerful opponent. I know all my own weak spots, all the ways to push my own buttons. Itâ€™s exhausting to try to fight my way through all my own fear and resistance to change.
But, as children of the universe, change is actually our natural state. Itâ€™s not hard to create change; itâ€™s hard to keep things the same. Itâ€™s just that we are afraid of change, and so weâ€™ve gotten good at resisting it; weâ€™ve built up powerful muscles to help us avoid â€œlosingâ€ what â€œweâ€™ve gotâ€ â€“ whatâ€™s familiar and therefore feels predictable and â€œsafe.â€
Softening Into Change
Normally, this is the spot in the article where Iâ€™d offer you a tool you can use to support the changes you want to be making, based on the reflections in the article. This time, I want to offer you instead a resource I found. Iâ€™ve been exploring a free eBook by Eric Klein called 50 Ways to Leave Your Karma, and while I have some resistance to the notion of Karma, and find seated meditation practice challenging, I am finding that Ericâ€™s framing of the challenges we have in our lives, and his invitations to soften into change are a huge gift to me. So I invite you to download the eBook and see if it resonates for you too. The chapters are short, rich, and full of useful ways to practice.
And because I canâ€™t leave you without an invitation to experience something about this softening into change, here is my paraphrasing of one of my favorite chapters from Ericâ€™s book: Be Still
Stillness helps to center us, ground us, give us the space to reflect and choose what we want rather than just reacting. But itâ€™s hard to be still; it becomes one more â€œthingâ€ we are supposed to â€œdo.â€ We feel like we canâ€™t take the time, and even when we do, thoughts chase each other around in our heads and make stillness feel unattainable. But Eric says:
â€œThe stillness is truly ever-present. Itâ€™s your attunement that wanders. And your openness that contracts. Fortunately, you donâ€™t have to rush to catch the stillness train. Stillness is here, now, surrounding and interpenetrating every level of your being, right now, as you read these words.â€
â€œFeel the stillness even as you read. Notice what itâ€™s like to read and simultaneously connect to that deep stillness.â€
You can touch into that stillness anywhere, any time, let it ground you, let it give you the space in which to choose how you want to be in whatever is happening, and what action you want to take next.