On Saturday the Sun inched across the equator, making its journey northward in the sky, and here in this northern hemisphere, marking the onset of Spring. In Colorado, the vernal equinox is a tease; spring plays a ‘hide-and-seek’ game that in this past week alone brought hail and snow, as well as our first taste of balmy weather.
The teeter-tottering itself confirms that welcome change is afoot—the lengthening days are a promise, and the chorus of morning birdsong offers a tune of hope. The equinox testifies to movement on a planetary scale. The earth tilts on its axis and reminds us that both around, and within, it’s all process, flow, change.
Yet, much of the time, change isn’t an easy pill to swallow—or at least not the kind we don’t choose. So often, change happens without our approval or consent, this past year being a poignant case in point. Change arrives unexpected at our doorstep, sometimes bringing what we long for (spring!), and sometimes taking what we love. How to stand steady in the swirl of change when it blows in with what we don’t want, and then lingers far longer than we’d like?
From the perspective of the Buddha’s wisdom teachings, not only can change hurt, it also potentiates our capacity to heal. The recognition of impermanence—that everything around us is constantly changing: the planets, the seasons, the weather, the people we live with and love—leads to the insight that we, too are ever in flux. Though our default mode is to believe the old, familiar stories of ‘I, me, and mine’ that would make us seem solid, fixed, immutable, one glance at the mirror affirms we are not outside of the laws of change.
This is, actually, the good news, and a cornerstone of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course which offers intensive training in mindfulness and its applications to the demands and delights of everyday life. As Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it, “as long as we’re still breathing, there’s more right with us than wrong, no matter what’s wrong.” And when we pour our energy, attention and love into what’s right, intentionally cultivating our own deep resources for learning and growing, we harness the power and potential inherent in impermanence. Scientists call this ‘neuroplasticity.’ I call it the upside of change.
As our home planet shifts in it’s alignment with our life-giving star, we too can realign inwardly with what’s best in us, our innate brilliance and light. Each small shift contributes to healing not only ourselves, but, in ripple effects both practical and profound, also our world, never more in need of the embodied presence and care of each and every one of us.