Someone has asked me to write about change and acceptance. The question is: What’s the problem?
We know we are changing all the time. We know, if we take even a second to look around us, that everything we see, hear, touch, smell, taste is also changing. All the time. Change, as odd as it may seem, is the constant. Change is our ‘always’.
So, what’s the problem?
When it comes to change, the problem is our attachment to things the way they are – even though we might admit that how we perceive things to be can’t possibly be the whole story. However, our persistence in believing that our perceptions are the whole story allows us to become attached to whatever pleases us, have aversion to whatever displeases us, and ignore the larger part of what’s happening around us. In Buddhist teachings, this is shown to be one of the main causes of our suffering.
For example: I’m sitting in front of the window of my study that looks out on the street. This is a street in Florida in June, the beginning of hurricane season when we get almost daily showers. Imagine that I only like this street scene when the sun is shining. If that were the case, then every time it rained, I’d be unhappy. The more attached I got to the sun, the more I would suffer unhappiness whenever a sunny day turned cloudy and rainy.
Without accepting the rain, without loosening up my attachment to sunny days, and without resilience to change, I’d be a mess. I might even avoid my desk, close the curtains, turn away from knowing what’s happening on the street in front of my house. And there is the real downside to attachment and lack of resilience to change – it causes us to block ourselves from knowledge, which is tantamount to blocking the truth, which won’t help us get anywhere near wisdom.
When we choose the path to wisdom, in my experience it’s imperative to open your mind on every level so you can see what you’ve ignored. Usually what’s been ignored or what you’ve turned a blind eye to is anything unpleasant and what’s unpleasant often involves change.
How do we become more resilient? Does meditation help?
My experience has also been that some form of meditation is essential, especially a technique that helps calm the mind. Add other skillful methods to enhance understanding along with studies to turn the intellect into a support for the practice, and one can gradually meet oneself on the path with honesty and integrity. That can then become the ground for resilience to take root and grow.
Please don’t get the idea that this is easy, that it’s always successful, or that this is the only way to do it. People with years of practice behind them have lost resilience in extreme situations. Others have used psychotherapy as an adjunct to practice – not a bad idea at all. Each individual has individual challenges and while it would be great if this were a ‘one size fits all’ remedy, it’s simply not. However, practicing meditation without the expectation of its efficacy, without any preconceived ideas about it but simply trusting the technique, can be a game changer.
(For instructions in basic calm abiding meditation, see www.miamibuddhism.org/wisdom )