There are three things that are certain in this life:
There is nothing in our lives that remains the same. Everything is moving and in constant flux – even the tiny atoms that are moving within the solid steel frames that make up our buildings and our roads.
Everything changes and our lives are in constant motion. Our life is a continual movement from birth to growth to death and back to birth again. There is not one moment in our life where we are not birthing, growing, and dying. The amazing thing is that all of these – birthing, growing and dying are all happening at the same time. We are always in the process of birthing something new. We are always nurturing and growing that new life. And we are always tending to the death of that which no longer serves.
These are sobering thoughts; and they really put into perspective the conditioning that teaches us to cling to what we have known and to seek after security and surety.
Question: is this conditioning or a function of our drive to survive? We have been told it is the latter, but I’m beginning to think it is more of the former. The ancients seem to have had a much better grip on the reality of change and seemed to tap into and surrender to the movement of this change. They also seemed to have found a way to survive and thrive without being attached to “the same.” Hmmmmmm perhaps another thing we can learn from those who have gone before us……
Change. Change. Change. Everything is changing. The ancients knew this and found a way to harness the gifts of that knowledge. The sages and teachers of old wrote about it. Modern day people sing about it. (Cue: David Bowie!) Everything is changing and nothing remains the same.
But, we are conditioned to want things to remain the same. We cling to what we have known. We writhe and scream and cry when that which we cling to is being pried from our cold, dead fingers. And we are terrified of the new because we don’t know what it is; we cannot control it; we cannot make it happen and we cannot force it.
Kind of like birthing a baby! I have birthed two and I can attest that the baby comes in its own damn time and only in the way that it wants to come into the world. Yes, modern medicine (and ancient medicine for that matter) have tools to help bring the baby into the world (especially if something is happening in the birthing process that would put the mother or child’s life at risk); but as any mother will attest – there is a cost to applying these interventions.
The same is true in life. New life comes in its own damn time and only in the way that the Soul intends. We cannot force it. We cannot make it happen. We cannot hasten its arrival. All we can do is create the space in which this new life can take root (like preparing the nursery for the arrival of your new child). We can prepare the soil. We can plant the seeds. We can tend and water those seeds. But no amount of efforting will make those seeds grow until they are darn ready to sprout and grow.
The same is true of death. That which needs to pass from our lives – outmoded ways of being, non-serving beliefs, behaviors that no longer serve, jobs that have outlived their usefulness, etc. – will pass from our lives no matter what we do to cling to them. Oh yes, we can cling, we can hang on, we can grasp and bargain and plead, and that which needs to die might indeed remain (because of our clinging); but it will no longer be life-giving. Instead, it will be like the shriveled up, half-dead, immobile and worthless part of Voldemort that remained after he and Harry killed each other.
We can cling to what we have known, or we can surrender to the natural movement of our lives toward change. Forever moving from that which one day served to the new life that beckons on the other side of surrender and death.
It is our spiritual practice that helps us in navigating the ever-churning waters of life’s journey. Developing, cultivating and nurturing our spiritual practice supports us in learning how to be with whatever stage of life’s movement we currently find ourselves in. Our practice helps us to be ok with “what is.” It also supports us in discerning this movement – when is it time to stay and when is it time to go (Cue: The Clash). Our practice guides us to the voice of truth within along with our inner compass which helps us to recognize the signs of death along with the beckoning call of new life. And our practice helps us to move gently and (somewhat) effortlessly through the constant movement and changes of life. Through our practice we are able to surrender to the flow and find peace within us.
But….sometimes our practice fails us. Try as we might, we cannot find peace or contentment within that flow. In spite of our efforts to tend to our spiritual practice and to harness its gifts for helping us surrender and find contentment within the movement of our life journey, we cannot find the fruits. Sometimes we can’t even “do” our spiritual practice because even these efforts seem to be failing.
But they are not! Even though it feels like we might have Spiritual A.D.D., we are not failing. Instead, we are in the stage of our Soul’s journey that is akin to the transition stage of labor. There is this place when the babe is trying to be born that is called transition and I can attest that IT IS INSANE! Transition feels as if someone has plugged you into a 220 outlet and you are ON FIRE. Every cell of the body feels charged with electricity. You feel restless, anxious and (for me anyway) like you will kill anyone that gets in your way. You can’t sit still. The mind is anxious. You feel like you want to run. Nothing provides comfort. What seems comfortable in one moment is not the next. It is like an energy has entered the body and is doing everything it can to bring forth this new life and you are possessed by this energy.
The same thing happens in death. Those who have tended to the dying call this the “death throes.” Similar to transition in labor, the person who is dying is overcome with restlessness, frustration, discomfort, anxiousness. Nothing will make them comfortable. They writhe and thrash and (if they are able) pace as the energy that seeks to usher them into death prepares them for the transition from life into death.
When we are at this stage in our personal journey – when the old is trying to pass away to make way for the new while the new is simultaneously trying to come into being, it is ok to be restless, frustrated, anxious and uncomfortable. This is natural and expected. When this stage shows up all we can do is surrender. As it relates to spiritual practices, when it feels like we are suffering from Spiritual A.D.D., all we can do is surrender. Walk away from the practice if you need to. Or do what I do, return to the oldie moldie practices which at the very least give my mind a break. When even this fails I “go with it.” Instead of resisting the energies of transition, I engage in them. I dance. I take a walk in nature. I cook. I clean. I find something to do with the restless energies in my body (kind of like all the pacing I did when I labor). And then I let it be.
That which is passing out of our lives will leave in its own damn time. The same is true of the life that is trying to be born. We can surrender to this truth or suffer the sure consequence of resisting. The choice is ours. What would you choose?
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