Change As A Privilege

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
– Alan Watts

icyclesI was on retreat in upstate New York this April, right when the pollen started to fall from the trees in Brooklyn.  Upstate, nothing had yet to bud at the tips of the branches. Winter takes longer to let go there – creating an additional season which feels like “Winter Letting Go Into Spring”. And for the four days I was there – things constantly changed. Pictures of the lake I took on the first day were impossible the next as it has risen a foot. Icicles that had clung to branches over the stream had melted when I woke up. The stream itself was much fuller than I see it at other times.

I might have thought the lake on the first day with less water, unblemished by the debris of the melting shoreline, was best. Or I might have liked it better with icicles raining down to the earth, or when they were still crisp and frozen. But it was all just change, and it wasn’t good or bad. It was just beautiful awesome change.

How can we be with our own changes in such a way?

Because we have this impetus, or maybe it’s just me, that change must be evolving, or at the very least for a purpose.  And if it’s not, then it’s feels like “what’s the point?”.  And I think we carry this through as a consolation in yoga – we see how everything is changing, and we think of it as evolving, or at the very least having a purpose. Generally it is, it does. But to regard change as just beautiful in its own right, without deciding about it, is a powerful practice.

How can we be with our own changes outside that need for evolution and purpose?

embersIf we feel absent of change – to know that the fire needs excellent embers in order not to extinguish easily – even if left untended for a time.

If we lean towards good or bad identification with change – can we let that go and rejoice in the change itself – the ability we have to change – the honor of it.

Doing so keeps things from being rote – you have to pay attention because at any time you can fall down or balance  in handstand.  Change allows for us to study, investigate, and work on ourselves. It keeps our beginners mind available to us, and keeps life from becoming rote.  Think how boring asana would be if there was never any change.

If change didn’t throw us into actively investigating our habits and cultivating curiosity – that would truly be an “otherwise what’s the point?”

In his On Being interview with Krista Tippett, Richard Feldman spoke of change as a privilege. Which is a perspective we could all work towards sharing.

“And Detroit is really not only the epicenter of the crisis and the pain, but also, as we’ll talk later on, the epicenter of a tremendous amount of hope and rejuvenation taking place.”  In speaking about Detroit, he speaks about so many corners of our lives. In those corners can we step back from the pain, step back from the rejuvenation, and just witness the change – the privilege of change?


Be the change you want to see in the world – Ghandi

ImagePerhaps one of the most famous rallying cries of yogis, activists, optimists, anarchists, and anyone   believing that it is possible for the world to live into its highest potential.

For years it had always seemed to shout “do good, be good!” to me. Which of course came with its accompanying self-disappointment when I did or was not. Then in a sudden shift in perspective, something I’d seen one way all my life, had a whole new connotation.


 All my life false and real, right and wrong tangled.
Playing with the moon, ridiculing wind, listening to birds….
Many years wasted seeing the mountain covered with snow.
This winter I suddenly realize snow makes a mountain.

-Eihei Dogen, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi

The only change possible, is the change we do ourselves.  It is never possible to change another person, it’s not even possible to make someone a better person.

The one thing, the only thing, that ever happens, is that we are at our highest most centered and allowing state. When another steps into that place, they may be able to change. But it comes entirely from them.  You did nothing, except yourself.

Even when we think we are with people who make us better by their example, they are not changing us.  They have inspired self-reflection, perhaps, but then we decide how we will step next, which must necessarily be the one and only way WE step. We cannot be that person and their achievements.

So instead of Ghandi telling me “Be better! Save the world!”, I now hear him encouraging “Let the world and others be.  The greatest support you can give to both is your highest most truthful and open self.”

Which inevitably returns me to Ram Dass:  Image

“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.”

“In our relationships, how much can we allow them to become new, and how much do we cling to what they used to be yesterday?”

“What you meet in another being is the projection of your own level of evolution.”

“Only that in you which is me can hear what I’m saying.”