Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shift Happens

"What can we take on trust
in this uncertain life? Happiness, greatness,
pride - nothing is secure, nothing keeps."
~Euripides, Hecuba

There's a saying: "If you're in a bad situation, don't worry it'll change.  If you're in a good situation, don't worry it'll change". For anyone who uses Facebook, Wednesday was a day of change. As they have in the past, Facebook changed the layout of many of its main features.  This did not surprise me.  Being part of a generation of people for whom using computers daily is the norm, I've become accustomed to the way things change and adapt accordingly. Soon enough, we'll all be used to the change and won't even remember what it was like before.

What did take me by surprise was how upset the change was to so many.  The reactions ran the gamut from annoyance to outrage and everything in between.  One Facebook user posted no less than 15 posts back-to-back decrying the change while attempting to rally the troops to revolt. A fairly extreme reaction to the whims of a free social networking site, no?

Now, don't get me wrong, there was a time when I felt the same way about change. I dreaded it, resisted it, complained about it (still do sometimes!), but the funny thing is, it keeps coming.  Over the years and with a lot of practice, I started to realize that change is something that I can't control - none of us can - but what we can control is the way we choose to react to it.  If you've ever engaged in the practice of really paying attention to your body, mind, or thoughts, you most likely noticed that your body, your mind, and your thoughts are constantly in flux and never the same.  They are always shifting and morphing, like the weather, from moment to moment.  Shift happens.  It is an undeniable fact of life from which nothing that belongs to this earth can escape.  

Buddhist philosophy looks at change in this way:
"According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is comparable to a river. It is a progressive moment, a successive series of different moments, joining together to give the impression of one continuous flow. It moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another, giving an outward impression that it is one continuous and unified movement, where as in reality it is not. The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment. So does life. It changes continuously, becomes something or the other from moment to moment." (

So why is it so hard to accept change?  Why do we resist it?  Why does something so trivial as a changed format on a free social networking website throw so many of us into a frothing frenzy?  We suffer with change because we cannot accept the truth of impermanence.  We know on a primal level that we are impermanent, but we stubbornly refuse to believe it.  In actuality, it's not so much what happens to us, but it's how we navigate and respond to those happenings.

So, when inevitably Facebook makes another big and confusing change, or we suddenly find ourselves with an unexpected illness or in the middle of a career shift, instead of getting upset or irritated, we can practice reminding ourselves that everything is in flux.

Our practice is not to want the river to stop flowing, but to be at peace as we flow from one moment to the next.

Until next time...

"Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure.  But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it.  Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer."  ~Shunryu Suzuki

Thursday night's playlist:
"Of A Broken Heart"-Zwan
"Skinny Love"-Bon Iver
"Awake My Soul"-Mumford and Sons
"I'm In Love With A Girl"-Big Star
"Baby I Love You"-Aretha Franklin
"Killed Myself When I Was Young"-A.A. Bondy
"Hard Sun"-Eddie Vedder 
"Tennessee Me"-The Secret Sisters
"Love Is All"-The Tallest Man On Earth
"I And Love And You"-The Avett Brothers
"Love Is My Religion"-Ziggy Marley
"Heart of Gold"-Neil Young
"Helplessly Hoping"-Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
"My Sweet Lord"-Yim Yames
"Love (2000)"-John Lennon
"Love and Communication"-Cat Power
"Don't Let Us Get Sick"-Warren Zevon