Lately I have been paying more attention to the old adage nothing is more constant than change.
Or perhaps it's been paying more attention to me. Like just when I’m getting used to the operating system on my phone, I get insistent update messages, which I ignore for as long as I can until something important no longer works, at which point I begrudgingly acquiesce to the download.
I notice more and more that city I was born in and in which I still live is not the same city. Now that I don’t go downtown regularly anymore, I am amazed and even sometimes a bit lost when I do venture there. So many new buildings! I can’t even remember what was there before, but certainly it’s all changed now. I recall older relatives reminiscing about this old restaurant, or how they used to work in that tiny old bank that is now an historic structure — and now it’s me that’s telling lamenting stories of how things used to be and feeling a pang in my heart.
Sometimes it’s a panic in my heart that I feel. When I drive on the freeway along spaces that used to be open land and see houses and buildings going up, I feel a panic. What happens when there is no space left? I will suffocate! Then I wonder what must those folks have felt who watched the freeway being built? Maybe they panicked. Or maybe they saw a way to get somewhere more easily?
The pace of change in the world is clearly accelerating; and it often feels to me at a rate that is beyond my human capacity to adequately adapt. I read about the heat wave in the Northern Hemisphere this summer, the not uncommon raging wildfires and flooding and of course the ever more dire predictions of climate change, and not just panic rises in my heart . . . but a fear that is greater than I can manage. I turn my attention away quickly. I’ve visited the center of that fear and though I am grateful for the experience of letting the full weight of our possible future into my consciousness, it’s not a place from which I can act with any effectiveness. To cope I must, yes, acknowledge what is so, and then turn my attention away and toward the question: What is my part?
I believe my part is the same as the part we all have to play. We have to become more conscious. We have to realize that other human beings are not enemies. We have to see through our own defense mechanisms, as brilliant and elaborate as they may be. Anything that isolates us, that breaks down relationship, that creates rigid walls is ego at work. In the end, our fearful egos may be what precipitate the end of our species (though let me be clear that ego is a vital part of who we are. It's not that it is bad, it's just that a scared and hurt ego is not the best choice for being the one in the driver's seat.).
So my part is to reveal to myself who I am behind and beyond the ego self that I thought was me.
This is your part too.
The bad news is that any revelation to yourself about your own ego structure’s strategies is intensely painful — because it is your ego that is experiencing the revelation and to truly see it is to die. When I say intensely painful, I mean incredibly, unbelievably, stunningly painful. It takes a strong heart and massive courage to be willing to endure the ring of scorching fire that must be pierced; and not only once, but again and again, and again as layers sluff off, revealing the next thing.
The good news is if you don't go through the fire, you suffer anyway. Although it can be a familiar, comforting suffering that is stable and therefore feels like it's not worth messing with. But with all the intense changes coming at us now and in the near future, the collective comfort of familiar ego suffering just may become worse than the suffering of going beyond. The collective suffering could become very real and very intense, and perhaps final.
The other good news is that each time you successfully sluff off a layer, you do get a reward. I feel an internal sense of liberation that I can feel in my body, if I'm paying attention. It’s like finally getting a breath of air after being underwater for too long, and it feels good.
The other good news is that the first layers are the most painful. It does get easier; and in fact, the work starts to almost be fun. You recognize that old feeling of ‘ouch!’ and know it points to a doorway, a threshold, over which lies another bit of freedom and spaciousness.
And the other good news is when you do this work, the collective is affected absolutely. None of us is alone. We are connected in a web of not only physical connection, but also energetic and psychic connection. We need each other to reveal ourselves to ourselves. You have no idea how powerful your own liberation is. It will have ripple effects that you'll never fully understand.
OK, all that sounds well and good. But here I am, feeling uncomfortable and weird and lost. I know there is change happening inside. It’s the damn operating system wanting to be upgraded and I don’t want to have to deal with unfamiliarity AGAIN. It’s the backhoes digging up the ground; it’s not knowing where I am in my own city.
I have a choice. I can be subjected to the change and hide from it or oppose it, using it to tell stories about how it was better back when, and complain as I am carried along unwillingly. I can hold on to my comfortable identity, and refuse to think or do or respond differently or to try new ideas because my terror of what would happen otherwise is greater than my curiosity and trust. Or I can learn to be in my deep center (yeah, no small task, I know) — that place that is behind and beyond fear — and ask "how I am being asked to transform in response to change?"
Transformation is dissolution and re-birth. It is radical growth in the scariest, healthiest and most joyous sense. It is conscious change, navigated with vulnerability, self-responsibility, courage and wonder.
I choose transformation. For myself and so for the whole interconnected enchilada.
And know that when you choose transformation, you are doing it for me.