“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” ~Anatole France
My doctor says I need to change my eating habits, my husband says I need to change the way I interact with him, my fat butt says I need to change my workout routine, and I think I need to change my approach to God. I continually tackle life with habitual attitudes while expecting outcomes to be different. The outcomes don’t seem to change. Not simply doing things differently but becoming a different person, both more aware within and more alert in life is really what I am attempting to accomplish.
It seems that changing doesn’t happen simply because a person joins a movement or converts to some form of faith. Those things can help; they can widen one’s perspective and bring you to the banks of the flowing river of life. Yet the baptism takes place under the water and no one actually sees the change that occurs.
In ancient India hunters developed a proven method for catching monkeys. A big coconut would be hollowed out. Then a hole was made in it; just large enough to allow the monkeys paw to pass through. The coconut would then be pinned to the ground and some tempting fruit would be placed inside the hollowed shell.
Inevitably, a monkey would approach the shell and want the fruit. As soon as the paw of the monkey grabbed the fruit, he was trapped because the fist and the fruit were too big to go through the opening in the shell. In order to become free of the trap all the monkey had to do was let go of the prize it coveted so much. But, the monkey would not let go. The monkey was trapped by what it desired and held onto. I think a lot of us are like these monkeys. Some of us stay trapped and imprisoned, caught by a narrow desire, and also by a fierce and blind unwillingness to simply let go of what we’ve held to be necessary or important.
Many take hold of something and refuse to let go, even when they become stuck in one place, even if they can’t taste the sweetness they first reached for in life. Some hold onto another person and refuse to let go; others take up an idea, a political belief or a religious notion that was supposed to set them free. After a time, they become trapped inside narrowing ideas or rigid rules. Soon they are caught in a trap made of their beliefs.
Change is hard because we hold onto what keeps us from changing; because freedom feels like losing something that we are used to clinging to; because real change means that we would no longer desire what is trapping us.
Genuine change involves pain just as birth involves labor. Many come to prefer the pain that they know to a birth that they can’t control.
There are many religions and philosophies that promise to end the piercing troubles and deadening habits if you only believe in them. However, belief in a spiritual experience of others can only act as an inspiration. In order to truly change we must let go of our habitual ways of being and cut off that which otherwise seems natural and common to the rest of us.
Wisdom is always valuable because it remains hard to find; it hides where most people prefer not to go. Wisdom and true freedom are found when we submit to the way we are intended to go and surrender to the mysterious ways we are intended to grow.
Like Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
This summer it’s time for me to start changing me.