Let Things Change

Let Things Change

What’s changing?

The Practice:
Let Things Change

Why?

The fifth of my personal Top 5 practices (all tied for first place) is open out, by which I mean relaxing into a growing sense of connection, even oneness, with all things.

“Opening out” can sound kind of airy-fairy or flakey, but I mean it in very down-to-earth ways; check out these JOTs about it: accept it, accept them as they are, and let it go. Here, I’m focusing on relaxing and opening into the fact that things keep changing, and not fighting it.

For example, thinking of things large and small: I’m aging, friends are getting cancer, our children are leaving home, and the San Francisco 49-ers don’t look as good as they did last year. I don’t like these changes! But if I add resistance to them, if I go to war with change itself, that just makes me feel worse, and sometimes fires me up to act badly.

Pick something specific, like your body getting older (sagging here, graying there), or your neighborhood altering, or things shifting in an important relationship. If you sense inside that you are fighting change, how does it feel? For me, it feels tense, contracted, uneasy. Alternately, if you can accept the sheer truth change, like it or not, how does it feel? Probably a lot better.

How?

Remember that you can accept the reality of change while also doing what you can to help things change for the better. Nothing about opening to the changing nature of both internal experiences and external conditions means that we should pursue wholesome ends with wholesome means any less wholeheartedly.

Think about something that’s changing – or has changed – which you’ve been struggling with, but you can’t stop the changes. Certain things naturally deteriorate; organized systems tend toward disorder; rust never sleeps. For instance, our sweet cat is growing infirm, ideas I had a few years ago that were once fresh and shiny are becoming clichéd and passé, and some old friends and I are growing apart. Or consider a change that you have been overlooking or even denying. Personally, I’ve tried to ignore the fact that my aging body can no longer stumble through life without exercise, and the cost to me of this denial is rising.

Try saying to yourself statements like: Things change . . . things are changing and I can’t stop it . . . I accept the reality of change . . . even as things change I will do what I can to help them go well . . . Also be specific about the particular thing – I’ll call it X here – that is changing, saying to yourself: X is changing . . . I wish it weren’t but it is . . . multiple factors are leading X to change . . . so far I haven’t been able to stop the change . . . I can still do whatever I think is appropriate about X . . . meanwhile, I can be giving toward myself and others . . .

As you say these things, try to relax, soften, and calm. Try to widen your view to see the whole picture, recognizing that countless other people are dealing with the same kinds of changes that you are. Feel how it would be a gift to yourself to let things change.

Also consider how what may have seemed to be a change for the worse might perhaps be in some ways a change for the better. This is not to paper over the worsenings but to see as well the new opportunities.

Most intimately, see if you can be aware of and increasingly comfortable with the fleeting passing of each moment of experience. A remarkable fact is eternally present right under our noses: each moment disappears utterly as another one arises.

Try taking a single breath during which you continually let sensations and thoughts pass away over the course of the inhalation and exhalation. So many endings in a single breath. It can be a little frightening to face the vanishings in each instant of experience. Yet meanwhile there are also so many beginnings, endlessly renewed; seeing this can help you be confident that it is alright to let go so profoundly.

Paradoxically, by letting your experience keep changing, you will gain an enduring peace.



Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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