How to Allow for Change with Grace

You've probably noticed this already but things are changing.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, a shiny ball of light has been creeping out behind the clouds. The days are longer. The season is changing, it's definitely spring /and/ it's going to be summer soon.

Along with this external change is the change in the sky. If you're a believer, there is some weirdness among the stars and planetary alignments. We're undergoing some Mercury Retrograde and Pluto Retrograde... which in simple terms means, the boat is rocking and uh, try not to fall off.

I, myself have been feeling the impact of change. This week's blog is about allowing change to happen with grace.

The only thing that is constant is change

We all know the saying. We've all felt the moments. There is an ebb and flow in life, like the waves rolling in and out at the shore. There's a current that is always shifting. Sometime it's more subtle and gradual, and other times it's as if a tsunami hit.

Knowing this, how can we keep ourselves afloat and gracefully survive the current?

For me it comes down to two things: vairagya (non-attachment/non-identification) and abhinivesha (fear of change/clinging to life).

Unlearning attachment and identification

Part of learning how to do something as radical as allowing change with grace, is unlearning the things that prevent us from that liberation.

It is so easy to get attached and hold onto our identities. We've all learned how to possess things and how to construct our own version of the self. 

My cousin Norah is only three and she has started to identify with objects around her, proclaiming, "It's mine."

As we go through life, we find things to attach ourselves to and in a way, collect identities. Maybe you're a theatre kid. Maybe you're a mother. Maybe you're a business owner. Such identities help us organize our tasks and lives.

Naturally, we become immersed in the situations we are placed in with our identities. We find ourselves going down a path, sometimes without even thinking about it. We flow and it's a smooth sailing.

Until something changes. 

All of a sudden your smooth sailing becomes a bit turbulent. Then it's like, what the hell do I know? What the hell do I do now?

That's where the concept of vairagya (non-attachment/non-identification) can help you. That's where you try to take a step back and get a bit metaphysical. The things that you're attached to, the identities you've formed for yourself... drop them. See beyond them. 

In essence, you're a part of God, of the Universe. Or another way of putting it is that you are a spiritual being having a physical, human experience. When change strikes you, and your circumstances shift, remember what you're really made of.

You are beyond the titles, circumstances, attachments, and identities. Change becomes a lot more palatable when you embrace vairagya. But it can only be done if you work on unlearning what you held on so tightly.

Stop clinging, avoid suffering

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali talks about the kleshas or root causes of suffering. 

One of the root causes of suffering is abhinivesha -- which can be translated to clinging to life or fear of death/fear of change. 

Change is the death of the status quo, of what we knew before, of the learned identities and attachments. 

Here's a quote from religion scholar Ravi Ravindra on abhinivesha.

"Dying daily is a spiritual practice--a regaining of a sort of innocence, which quite different from ignorance, akin to openness and humility. It is an active knowing; not achieved but needing to be renewed again and again. All serious meditation is a practice of dying to the ordinary self. If we allow ourselves the luxury of not knowing, and if we are not completely full of ourselves, we can hear the subtle whispers under the noises of the world outside and inside ourselves."

If we allow ourselves to let go of our attachments, and let go of resistance to change, there is a lot we can gain.

As we let go of abhinivesha, change can happen without suffering. Rather than cling to what is, we can explore what might be.

How I'm handling change with grace

If you were expecting a step-by-step guide on this, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Handling change is too complex of an issue to break down into bullet points.

However, I will share with you how I'm currently handling it.

This year, I've been experiencing changes that are probably like many who are crossing from adolescence to actual adulthood.

Opportunities to advance as a yoga/meditation teacher are placed in front of me, and I'm stepping into the new roles. My personal life has also blossomed into a wonderful romance. My role as a family member is also shifting.

For the most part, the changes are positive. In short: I'm growing up. I'm figuring out my career/dreams and my relationships. It's as if I am leveling up, and asked to shed my old skin.

My old skin here refers to my insecurities:

I am not good enough. I am not smart enough. I am not loved enough.

You know, the thoughts we all deal with from time to time. But with these new changes and opportunities, I'm being asked to unlearn those thoughts and embrace a different way of seeing myself and conducting with the world.

I am empowered. I am loving and loved. I am serving others well. 

Even though these changes are positive, and ones I want, I am terrified... I find myself wanting to freak out and worry and control the situation so everything is perfect. I find myself drawn to how I was when I was with 17, extremely effective at my job but also neurotic. A part of me wants to cling to my insecurities.

But despite how I feel, I am allowing the changes to happen as gracefully as possible. I am allowing myself room for mistakes, I am allowing myself room for compassion, and I am allowing myself to struggle without letting it affect my self-worth.

Knowing I am beyond my attachments and knowing there is more to explore helps me move forward. That's how reflecting on vairagya and abhinivesha helps me stay courageous as the changes unfold.

What's your advice for graceful change? When was the last time change terrified you? How did you handle it? Share below.

Hien Hong