By Molly Stillwell
“Let go…or be dragged” – A Zen Proverb
Ironically, one of the only true constants in life is change. Yet, despite this phenomenon being a fundamental part of our evolution as human beings, we often seem to struggle in achieving even the change we actually WANT to happen!
When I first began studying psychology, I focused on the issues I was most passionate about (aka – climate justice, women’s rights, leadership) but, today, I’m researching how people change. From the past seven years of study, including my own transformative experiences, I have come to understand that change is at the core of our ability to resolve the broad spectrum of issues we face and, most importantly, that change is a process that requires compassion.
At a course I attended recently, a very wise woman (@Anne Peterson) asked a group of us to reflect on the idea of completion, letting go, and what we wanted to get out of our experience there. This is when I really began to ask myself what was it about “change” that caused me to struggle so much? What was I holding on to? As I looked, I began to realize that changes in my life required me to step outside of my comfort zone, embrace the unknown, and feel vulnerable in the process (one of my very favorite things to AVOID at all costs). And this is, well, hard.
Now, because our goal as human beings is to avoid excess hardship, we mentally and emotionally defend ourselves from these unwanted experiences. However, while this armor may keep us safe from these initial threats (a.k.a–feelings of anxiety, fear, and insecurity), ultimately, this leaves us exposed to far worse (a.k.a–depression, disease, and disconnection from ourselves and the world around us).
This, my goddesses, is where compassion comes in. This practice of self-love is essential here because we are bound to trip and stumble along the path of change, bound to “fail” and not meet our goals at some point. Without making a conscious effort to practice compassion, feelings of shame resulting from such experiences can be internalized in a way that prevents one from taking on the risk of “change” again, unless by force.
What I continue to find through my work in this area, is that *deep breath here* embracing the discomfort, the unknown, the failure, and the challenge is the most important part of change! This is what causes us to grow and become better, more well-rounded people. It makes our highs feel sweeter, our gratitude more present, and our resilience stronger.
When we achieve this ability to be with our experiences, both the highs and the lows, then we can move through them freely without becoming encumbered with the weight of avoidance and denial. Instead, we are able to get complete with our experiences and, in turn, this provides space for what is yet to come–a space for new things to develop, and new opportunities to reveal themselves.
Thus, contrary to normal beliefs about happiness, often times embracing, understanding, and moving through the “negative” in our life is actually the way to finding our happiest and healthiest way of living. In other words, the only way “out” is through, and the only way through, is with compassion. So, instead of making a New Year’s resolution something we’ve all done before (like to lose weight, meet new people, or become more successful) this year challenge yourself to investigate what is underneath those goals and what is calling for you to get complete with in order to make the changes necessary to achieve them (#yougotthis).