Enlightened Living

Meaning and mindfulness in everyday life

Making Change Happen

Embracing the essence of self-transformation

 Whether discussing the complexities of neuroplasticity or thinking about switching to decaf, the essence of change is pretty much about getting from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’. Perhaps the most difficult thing about enacting change is discovering exactly where ‘Point A’ is. In breaking our behavior cycles and creating the changes we desire, a number of factors come into play.

One of the key elements in creating change is establishing self-acceptance. Acceptance itself is a rather tricky concept because, by definition, it implies a certain amount of resignation and compromise. That kind of subtle negativity built into a seeming positive ultimately fails to be useful in that it will inevitably engender resentment, or apathy, or one of either of their lesser step-sisters.

For acceptance—and particularly self-acceptance—to be meaningful it needs to be clear of this kind of emotional clutter. That happens when we introduce the notion of ‘allowing’ into the mix. ‘Allowing’ means to ‘be with’ the conditions of our context, and to do so without judgment. In other words, it means to be present with ourselves. Being present means being honest and, for most us, the level of self-inquiry demanded by that kind of honesty is something we need to work at.

We can start that self-inquiry with a little simple troubleshooting, asking ourselves, “What’s not working?”, or, in service of a wellness model, rather than an illness model, “What could be working better?” Is it big, or is it little? Is it momentary, or a theme? Once we sort all this out, we can accept whatever it is we are considering as an evident truth. Then we can acknowledge it and hold space for it, or allow it, without judgment. Once we get here, we have our ‘Point A’, and can now determine where ‘Point B’ might be, and how we are going to get there.

One of the most reliable examples of not doing this – and one, it seems, that plagues many of us – is what we might refer to as ‘revolving relationships’. For example, Tom has been dating the same woman since he was 17. Sometimes she’s tall, sometimes short, sometimes a blonde, sometimes a redhead, but her character and social style tend to be fairly consistent and his relationships inevitably take a similarly consistent trajectory.

Because Tom chooses not to examine the constancy of this pattern, he is bound to repeat it. Taking some time to look at why he chooses these partners and how those choices lead to the demise of his relationships might not only minimize his aggravation and angst, but bring him some measure of joy. First, however, he must be willing to accept, acknowledge and allow the motivations underlying those choices.

That leads us to another key element in our formula for change: willingness. Willingness or the will to change comes with its own set of complications. In general, human beings thrive on structure and consistency. Even the most flexible and creative of us enjoy a certain amount of ritual in our lives. A disruption of that constancy may cause us some distress, or even engender fear. So, the common wisdom that if no one is dead, bleeding or on fire it’s all good and we should just let it be tends to prevail. That, however, also tends not to serve us.

Ironically, the only real constant is change. For us to have survived all these millennia, we needed to evolve. For us to thrive in our present moment, we need also evolve, but not just in body; rather, in body, mind and spirit, as an integrated, whole person. This realization of our full, integrated potential demands change, not because something is broken within us, rather because we need to remember who and what we’ve forgotten we are—perfect, and perfect in our imperfection.

© 2013 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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Michael J. Formica, M.S., M.A., Ed.M., is a psychotherapist, teacher and writer. He is an Initiate in the Shankya Yoga lineage of H.H. Sri Swami Rama and the Himalayan Masters.

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