With winter waning and the spring energies waxing, we may find gradually awakening in ourselves ideas of new beginnings, setting goals, prepping for “spring cleaning”. Just today, during a brief stroll on my lunch break, my senses caught an unmistakable harbinger of things to come, not seen nor heard for the past few months: baby birds chirping high in the trees on a balmy 40 degree day.
From the perspective of health, it is a loving service to self that we consider the path of preventive wellness: cultivating, building, and protecting health proactively–vs. the short-sighted mentality of putting out fires (treating symptoms) without studying how we allowed the fires to come about in the first place (root causes).
Sometimes it’s the case that leveling-up our health game, flowing in new habits and skill sets, means having to dismantle, relinquish something old, familiar, predictable, safe. Consider the Zen Buddhist parable of the master and the professor:
THE MASTER Nan-in had a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. But
instead of listening, the visitor kept talking about his own
After a while, Nan-in served tea. He poured tea into his visitor’s
cup until it was full, then he kept on pouring.
Finally the visitor could not restrain himself. “Don’t you see
it’s full?” he said. “You can’t get any more in!”
“Just so,” replied Nan-in, stopping at last. “And like this cup,
you are filled with your own ideas. How can you expect me to give
you Zen unless you offer me an empty cup?”
If there is room in us for change, along with sufficient flexibility and right intent, then making that shift or pivot can be relatively easy. But if our metaphorical cup remains filled with the familiar brew of “this is me”, “this is not me”, then how can we savor the taste of novel experience? We cannot; how could it be otherwise?
Another way to state it is, of course, that in order to live something must die; life comes forth from death. This is one level of interpreting the Egyptian scarab motif, the featured image of today’s post.
A few tips for your consideration:
* Be clear on exactly what needs to be let go of; be clear on exactly what the new form (habit, lifestyle, relationship) looks like; be clear on what’s motivating you. These subjects are often more than what they seem on superficial examination–what may seem like a noble reason for change can, on deeper integrity-checking, actually come from a place of angst, fear, pain; what needs to be let go of is sometimes hidden in the subconscious. Thus, 1) sufficient space and time for self-inquiry in the spirit of absolute honesty, desiring to recognize both virtues and faults, and 2) studying the timeless, noble, universal human values, and using these as a standard against which to measure our thoughts, ideas, emotions, motivations, etc. each become crucial habits.
Let’s take the example of an overweight person, borderline diabetic and suffering from sleep apnea. He’s attempted repeatedly–and unsuccessfully–to slim down. If there is an as yet unidentified deeply-rooted emotional attachment to eating as an outlet for nervous energy, eating as a form of control, or food as oral pleasure then this is the relationship that needs to change-transform-die. Without surrendering the old, there can be no new.
Or consider the case of a parent who disciplines her children with harsh words when she sees the house is a mess. In her mind, it’s important to have a clean house, but at a deeper level of self she is really motivated by an intense fear of not having things exactly the way she wants them, and perceives any disobedience as a form of rejection. In this case, the surface motivation and the deep motivation are very different energies.
And how many of us have ourselves been, or know someone who has been, in that place of chronic, persistent dissatisfaction in some relationship (self, work, family, romantic), being able to describe in great detail how much things suck, and yet committing zero energy to identify what ought to be done to improve circumstances? If we don’t know what we want, then how can we steer our ship in any other direction?
* We can only abide in Life to the extent we have let go of prideful, willful, fearful, stubborn insistence on having things “my way”. No matter how strongly or passionately we may state a desire for newness, to get out of an uckh, I’m so sick and tired of this shit already relationship (again, it’s worth repeating, with self &/or other), if we have not let go and entered willingly into the space of the unknown there will be no change. Ergo, when change is difficult, it pays to ask oneself: is it possible that I’m holding on to something, that I resist surrendering something? If so, what might that be? It may take a period of reflection and rigorous self-examination to fully bring the truth out. Cultivate the genuine desire to want to live your truth.
* Recognize that creation = destruction. Life evolves with the dying off of forms. In order to get the husband, the man has to shed the bachelor identity; in order to get the butterfly, the identity of the caterpillar has to go.
* Recollect the benefits of letting go of the old and pivoting into the new. A slimmer figure, increased energy, loving relationships, freedom, durable happiness less dependent on external circumstances, decreased medical bills, more dough in your wallet: just a few examples.
* Recollect the harm of not letting go of the old, not pivoting into the new. If you keep leaning on the same set of excuses out of pride, laziness, fear, etc., you are in fact harming yourself. In harming yourself, you also harm the ones who love you the most as you continue thinking-speaking-acting in, and emitting the energies of, outmoded ways that perpetuate suffering.
* Honor fears, but discern the presence of the higher mind as a distinctly different self-level from fear. Ask, from a place of clinical, warm-hearted impartiality: letting fear govern, where will this all go? letting the higher mind govern, where does that go? And then decide. We can learn to listen objectively, patiently, calmly, and compassionately to our fears and angsts, weighing the value of various viewpoints in our own mind, yet at the final decision point be clear on NOT going where those lower tendencies urge. And then do it again and again at each fork in the road.
* Expect that there will be dips and flips along the way, and persist patiently. If A-grade health/wellness were easy, there would be no suffering on the planet. Since we all suffer in some department of life, the work is, at times, not easy. Recall the Japanese proverb: fall seven times, stand up eight.
* Check in with yourself regularly. Connecting with your inner teacher, ascertain whether you are still on the right path, doing the right thing, for the right reason. Let conscience guide the process, making yourself teachable to your own Higher Self. Have the courage and humility to admit mistakes, to accept faults good-naturedly as a feature of being an imperfect human, and refine your process.
Reflecting on these and related ideas can help you generate and sustain the motivation needed for the work of personal growth and evolution. Hope this helps you in your quest toward health, wholeness, and fulfillment! Love within, J*