Money makes the world go round. Money. Dollars. Coins. Change. There it is. Change makes the world go round. Nothing is permanent.
At a very young age, I openly admitted to myself my fear – or at least dislike – of change. I have yet to decide if this was wisdom or folly. Regardless of my childhood musings over what I thought of the order of the universe, change came, as it does. Back when I was a young warthog, I viewed change as robbery, the merciless theft of beautiful moments. Maybe what makes Change so powerful is she doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of her. She just continues about her way, doing her thing – haters back off.
A list of things that change while I write this
The position of the sun in the sky
The shrimp and broccoli currently being dissolved by my stomach acid
The state of fatigue I felt when I woke up
My confidence in composing – or at least publishing – this daily musing
I am glad that all of these things change. I have plans today so I am counting on time to follow its course. I don’t want to shit out an entire shrimp so I am grateful for the digestive process. I don’t want to feel tired all day; I am grateful for the impermanence of mental and physical states of being. I want to publish something worth reading; I acknowledge the fluctuations in my confidence and heed the warnings.
Well, well, younger self. Change doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? Be grateful for all the PopTarts you didn’t have to push out your butt in the same form they went in your mouth. Can I get a “amen?” Change is going to happen, is happening, all the time. It’s happening right now, while you read this string of words and electrical signals go racing through your body, processing information. Change is as ever-present as the breath in our lungs. Life becomes so much more peaceful and rich, I have found, once the truth of impermanence is accepted.
In Tuesday’s post, I danced around the subject of my meditation practice. How did practicing meditation aid me in coming to terms with the reality of impermanence? Oh I didn’t just come to terms, I began to be as a business partner with change, – that fickle force of nature – and that has made all the difference.
While seated for meditation, I breathe. That’s all – just breathe. As I sit, I gently guide my attention to my breath and observe the pattern; the inflow and outflow, the rise and fall, and so on and so forth. I don’t try to control the breath. I simply take note of the ever-changing motion and notice the characteristics of the breath – Is it shallow? Deep? Short? Is there any pressure or any other sensations to be noticed. Once you come to a place where you settle into “watching” the breath with ease, you begin to notice all these subtle changes that occur with each passing moment in your body that gives insight into emotional experience, thought processes, and the judgments imposed upon those experiences and processes. I’ve found that the most effective – and most relaxing – way to heed the ancient advice, “Know thyself,” is by sitting down and watching myself breathe. Simple as that.
A key insight I gained from my practice is: Nothing is inherently good or bad, only thought makes it so. There’s a nice little parable that helps explain the rationale behind this insight, called the Parable of the Chinese Farmer. Click that link there and a new window will pop up with an animated version of the short parable and its meaning. Now for the daily question: Why the hell does this matter? Glad you asked. When the nature of impermanence is realized and accepted, judgment begins to fall away from the mind. Judgment is like throwing pebbles into a pond. While constantly throwing pebbles, the water becomes choppy and vision is distorted. When the onlooker stays her/his hand, the water will settle and all things within and reflected on the surface will be seen with clarity.
Do you remember the movie, Pocahontas? Every good story begins with a sudden change in the world the protagonist (main character), has known up till the beginning of said story. In the beginning of Disney-version-Pocahontas’ story, our young Native American princess climbs to the top of the trees by the prompting of her intuition and sees “strange clouds,” that introduce drastic change into her world. The main force of tension that pushes the plot of this treasured animated film forward, is the difference in judgment over this new change. Savages vs. People-like-me; the struggle of opposing perception exists within both camps, with one character daring to challenge the mainstream perspective.
Life is like this, I have found. As change enters our lives from day to day, as it does and as it will, there is a moment of judgment in which we can view the incoming change as savage – to be rejected – or as a welcome newcomer to be greeted and understood.
If you give in to nostalgia and decide to dig out your old VHS copy of Pocahontas tonight, notice as you watch: In the beginning of the movie, Pocahontas sees the sails of the ship – the “strange clouds” – come in and they fill the frame. At the end of the movie when all conflict has been resolved, Pocahontas watches the ship – with it’s “strange cloud” sails – ride the waters into the horizon, and both Pocahontas and the ship can be seen in the frame together, about the exact same size. Maybe as a writer I have a habit of reading too deep into everything (you should see me try to hold a text message conversation with a new romantic interest. It’s pathetic.), but I take this symbolically into my own experience as watching change come in and go out, and demanding the mind to be free of judgment toward all events and identities. Watch the movie with this point-of-view in mind, and you’ll get what I mean. I’m sure the experience will be enlightening.
One quick story and then I’m done, I promise.
I recently began openly considering options for a second job. The restaurant business, it seems, doesn’t always pay all the bills. I was visiting my college campus the other day to get some work done and see some friends who were staying on campus over the summer. Long story short, a wrench was thrown in my plans and I became without transportation to get myself to work that day. I called a friend from school who was staying in the area over the summer and he agreed to help me out. While in the car, he told me that he was working for the summer cabaret at the college, and making decent money, but the cabaret was understaffed and needed more workers. Well, well, well, I thought to myself. How about that. It turned out that a good friend of mine was managing the cabaret staff. I sent a Facebook message and had a second job within hours. The search was over. I would be working with people I knew and loved in a place I knew and loved in an environment that I love – oh and making money, which I like too.
Now I could have panicked when things fell through for me and I realized I didn’t know how I was getting to work. By maintaining a mental state of equanimity, I was able to calmly assess my options and provide a solution, without passing judgment on the situation. The situation ended up turning around and not only did I get to work, but I got a second job out of the ordeal as well. So who knows what is good or bad? By not flipping my lid, I saved myself the hassle of a great deal of stress, and stress is the real killer.
Take away from today’s conversation something practical: kill your judgments. Allow change. Welcome it. Learn from the example of the Chinese farmer and see all situations as they are without judgment, understanding that we do not know how one moment leads to the next and what will come to pass from what currently is. Learn from Disney-version-Pocahontas and actively refuse to pass judgment on events and identities, accepting everything as it comes, partnering with change and enjoying the benefits of every experience while maintaining equanimity. And if you dare to dip your toe in the waters, learn from me and introduce yourself to a simple meditation practice. Train yourself to be conscious of change as it is occurring, cultivate equanimity and stillness. Hold back your stones and view the waters with clarity. And when strange clouds fill your skies, be prepared to love them.