The Nature of Change

I am in Italy. For two weeks I’m teaching yoga at the Mandali Retreat Center. The center is located in the mountains, with a view on the lake in the valley below. The surroundings and conditions are offering constant opportunities for reflection. As the weather changes almost every hour, I am reminded of the ephemeral nature of existence. Nothing ever stays the same. Just when you think you have your life figured out, something new presents itself. These natural fluctuations are potential for misery. If you relate the status quo to how you feel, you will be disappointed over and over. If you allow sunshine to make you feel happy, and rain to feel sad, you may consider moving to a place where the sun always shines. But, oh wait! What happens then when darkness falls?

I share with my students that if you cling to pleasant things and feelings, and avoid unpleasantness, you will never be genuinely happy. Because first of all, it is impossible to never experience anything unpleasant. As the Buddha allegedly said: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Moreover, when you let your outer circumstances dictate your sense of being, you are at the mercy of others. You will not have any control over how you feel at any given time. Your happiness will be conditional: only when everything is just right you will be content.

To live in genuine happiness you need to embrace life as it comes. The clouds and the blue sky, the heat and the cold, the humidity and the dryness, the daylight and the darkness of night, health and sickness, joy and grief, compassion and anger, praise and blame, exclusion and inclusion, your inhale and your exhale. There really is no other way. How can you resist the fullness of existence and expect to experience only half of it (i.e. the ‘good’ part)? By opening your arms wide to the full expression of your life, life will hug you back.

Of course, there will be moments when you do not feel a hundred percent content. In those instances, follow Adyashanti’s advice and ask yourself the question: What am I resisting right now?” This inquiry gives space to your feelings and allows you to see what the underlying unsatisfactoriness is. Quite often, if not all the time (at least that is my experience), it will become apparent that the present moment is just fine, and that it is not such a big deal not all is exactly the way you wanted or expected. You don’t have to like it (in this age of social media ‘liking’ is highly overrated anyway), just don’t fight it.

While I’m sitting on the terrace overlooking the lake, I am in awe of the wonder of nature. Clouds make way for spots of blue, the color of the lake reflecting whatever the sky looks like. It is fascinating. And beautiful. If the weather was the same all the time, I’d have another challenge: not wanting it to stay like that forever. You see? You can’t win. But you can’t loose either. You don’t have to do anything. Because everything changes, no matter what.