Illustration: The Magazine of Yoga
May Diary: The Trouble with Change
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST JOANNA HELLER
What’s the trouble with change? It keeps moving around, that’s the trouble. And it rattles me. You’d think I’d learn. “When will we ever learn… ”
That’s not what Pete Seeger was referring to but it’s a good question. For me, it is about learning to accept moments as they come. All the moments. Bob Dylan said the answer was “blowin’ in the wind” and I’m sure it always is but it’s just not all that easy to see or to grab.
But in any case, this is my practice. Welcoming moments as they come. Especially since moments arriving and leaving seem to be the only permanent condition we actually have.
Calm is a moment. Turmoil is also a moment.
Evidently, I have not really accepted this. On some deep pre-sentient level I magically believe that when things have fallen or been wrested into stability, they should please remain there. The calm of the yoga mat, the pre – phone call feeling, the clean dishes, clean folded towels … so nice to hold.
This makes no sense. I know.
Take the new moment into your heart
My breathing apparatus is not actually connected to the dishes or the towels, or for that matter, the phone. But knowing it doesn’t seem to alter very much. “You, the people and the stuff in my life, my comfort zone, my refrigerator humming, … stay as you are.”
Afraid not …. when my cell phone startles me with a sudden buzz, or the refrigerator suddenly makes strange noises and leaks a puddle on my kitchen floor. Hah! A surge of anxiety. Whatever happened to that other moment?
Pema Chodron says that there actually is nothing to hold onto and that this is not bad news. Not bad news? Maybe that’s the key. One moment has come and gone. Take the new one to your heart.
She tells a story of helping a woman struggle through PTSD flashbacks by maintaining eye contact with her and by calmly, quietly, and repeatedly reminding the woman to stay. Just stay. Stay with yourself. Stay with this moment. Stay…
When the mail or the phone brings some sudden something. Stay. When outside demands call for attention … Stay anyhow. When my computer has some strange glitch and cannot hear me. Stay.
Do what needs to be done. Also, stay.
Speaking of computers …
They did not appear in my life until the very end of my teaching career. They were truly mystery machines. Alien to my life, to my way of organizing, of working, to my way of learning and communicating.
When I first got a computer I thought I would figure it out, follow the instructions, get it all in some sort of order and I would be set, computer literate. I learned how to read and write, didn’t I? Then I was literate.
But a computer isn’t a book. It is a mutable animal.
The computer programs I finally learned didn’t stay the way my books stayed. And not the way my notebooks and pencils stayed. Sometimes my mystery machine would be waiting dumbly for me to do something while I was waiting dumbly for it to do something. I couldn’t remember who was waiting for whom and waiting for what.
Eventually we became more or less friends. Then one day a program would change and my computer would not seem to like it. New and marvelous applications kept on coming along.
Old machines don’t always like new applications. My brand new magic machine suddenly is obsolete. Then comes a new machine to learn, wondrous and different and with a lot of space for new programs … on and on it goes.
Endless. Go with the flow. Also, stay in balance. Maybe take a lesson from our planet itself. Don’t lose rotating axis, move on through time.
Reminder: walk along the edge of the sea … walk through the utter stillness of a graveyard … sit in the sun or sit with my computer.
Return to center. Click enter.
When the therapist asks, “Where do you feel it?” she is asking you to notice this moment.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.