Mindfulness in the Face of Change
The only thing that is certain in life is that things will change.
As human beings we tend to dislike change, even if the current situation is dysfunctional, because we would rather have certainty of something unpleasant, rather than any uncertainty, even if a pleasant outcome might result. Change inevitably brings uncertainty. I notice this in myself. What I am concerned about is knowing the outcome of a change, even if that outcome is unpleasant – anything to avoid the uncertainty.
So part of the path of the mindfulness meditator is becoming more comfortable with uncertainty. In particular, if we want to develop insight into our psychological make up a first step is being OK with not knowing. Being comfortable with confusion. As soon as we think we know a reason for something, the mind latches onto that and this blocks all of the other possibilities. This blocks the possibility for an insight. My experience is that a genuine and transformative insight is completely different to anything anticipated. So part of our training is developing an attitude of ‘I don’t know’ and becoming fundamentally OK with not knowing.
My previous practice of being OK with uncertainty has been very valuable to me this week, as I have been faced with a sudden and unexpected change. I have noticed my mind going into planning mode, especially in my practice. My mind has been constantly distracted into planning. This requires patience. The patience to repeatedly bring myself back to my present moment experience. Kindly reassuring myself that it is natural for the mind to be distracted at such times. Curious about the familiar paths the mind trundles down, driven as usual by what ‘I’ want and by what ‘I’ don’t want.
I notice my tendency to want to be in control in the face of uncertainty and the security of putting a plan in place. A series of steps to follow. This gives me some ground that I can scramble back onto. Intellectually, I know that I have very little control over what unfolds, but somehow that knowing takes time to land in the core of my being.
RAIN practice has helped me this week. I have been ‘R’ecognising my reactivity to change and ‘A’llowing my experience to unfold – as best I can. I have been giving ‘I’ntimate attention to my thoughts, emotions and physical sensations around the unexpected change and how I am catastrophising and elaborating. This has provided insight into the ego-centric drivers of my reactivity. It has provided insight into my previously unseen expectations and assumptions about how things ‘should’ be and ‘should’ continue to be – so as to suit ‘my’ preferences. Then when I get to the Non-identifying step of RAIN practice I can get some perspective.
The RAIN practice has helped the inevitability of uncertainty and the truth of my lack of control to land in my core – in a felt sense way. This is not comfortable, but it is honest. The practice has given me time and space to be with the feelings, as they are, with kindness. Then I can have a choice.
This space allows my intention to emerge. The intention to respond skilfully, for the benefit of all, in any given situation. The intention to avoid needless suffering – my own or anyone else’s. The intention to remain connected and to communicate with everyone in the situation and not to disconnect.
I don’t have to be reactive. I can swim with the currents of change and adapt. I can welcome change as an opportunity to learn more about my ramshackle collection of habitual patterns, as they are triggered. Fundamentally, I am OK. The change will happen anyway and I can trust myself to respond, as and when required.
I am so grateful for my practice. I can appreciate the richness of change. Welcome a new perspective. Bo open to new opportunities.
Are there some changes troubling you? If so, I recommend our RAIN practice. It is discussed at length in Chapter 8 of our new Mindfulness Based Living Course Book. The RAIN practice is available on our free MBLC app.
Or you could simply click here to listen to the practice.