According to the Chinese calendar, we are now entering the Year of the Snake. A time of rejuvenation and transformation. An opportunity for growth, as we “shed the skin we have outgrown” and re-emerge into the world with new vigor and purpose.
So why is it that for so many of us change leaves us paralyzed with fear, doubt and insecurity?
PERCEPTION MAKES COWARDS OF US ALL
Perhaps as sentient creatures, it is natural to seek patterns and order to the world. To believe that amid the seeming chaos, randomness and uncertainty, there is something greater at work and a plan unfolding, even if we are not fully privy to its contents. For some this is an article of faith. For others, it is a chimera which masks our unease with the concept of entropy.
We do well to remember that what we perceive as “reality” is not necessarily in fact, “reality.” It is a construct based on our closely held beliefs, experiences and even our desires. This is why the notion of change and dynamic flux can hold such terror and dread, for it challenges our fundamental assumptions about the universe and our place in it. And it takes a wise person to be willing to make such a leap.
Why is it that in times which we perceive as “good,” which are advantageous to our hopes, dreams and aspirations, that we wish for things to remain the same forever? Is it our fear of losing what we have? Or what we do desperately believe that we have, in part to define who we are? Conversely, and perhaps perversely, in times of struggle and challenge, is it not easy to fall into despair and doubt, and to secretly fear that “luck” has abandoned us, that success and happiness are elusive because we are undeserving?
We must free ourselves of such thinking. For ultimately it is both limiting and erroneous to allow ourselves to be held captive to our perceptions. To see things not as they are, but as we wish or fear them to be.
EMBRACE THE UNKNOWABLE
It is easy and even tempting to grow stagnant on our journey through life. Whether we realize it or not, we are socialized to find our comfort zones and to operate safely within these confines. Fortunately, it is the nature of Life, and the Tao which comprises it, to present many obstacles to such laziness and inertia. For if we do nothing at all we are carried along by the prevailing winds and currents, and wind up where we are. If we blindly expend energy and stubbornly act in a manner which is based solely on our perceptions, we wind up where we are. It is only by charting a course with sensitivity and consideration of the current which we are part of do we wind up where we need to be.
We must remain open to possibilities, for this is the gateway to change which leads to growth and greater awareness and understanding. We can seek to avoid change, but no matter our efforts, it will come. We can seek to effect specific change, and to be sure, our efforts will have consequences, but whether intended or not, we will invariably discover circumstances, challenges and opportunities once undreamt of. For such is the nature of the world. It is at once unknowable and mysterious, yet also less complicated than we make it out to be. It is all a matter of perspective and this is brought about by perception.
THE SAME AS IT EVER WAS
When a snake discards its old skin, this signals its metamorphosis as it grows and begins anew. Yet fundamentally, the snake is still the same creature that it was before shedding its outer wrapping. Transformation of character is not so easily accomplished, and requires far more discomfort and commitment. How we perceive ourselves, and those around us, in instructive to understanding both where we are and where we need to be to align ourselves with the balance and harmony which underlie this world.
Our story should not be understood as one of successes and failures, as victories and defeats, triumph and struggle, or tragedy and comedy. Rather it should be seen as a feat of navigation, or maintaining equanimity and equilibrium from one moment to the next. Instead of dwelling on what we think we can control, we are better served on seeing things not how we wish or fear them to be, but for what they are. Moments to be savored or to be endured, but not to cling to, for their transitory nature cannot be denied. And in embracing this approach we liberate ourselves from angst and turmoil and can truly discover not only the constancy of change, but the necessity of letting go that which no longer serves us or defines us. We are all “works in progress” and none of us are so far along that we cannot be refined, or so hopeless as to be beyond repair.
And with these thoughts, our journey continues now…