There’s a little Chinese character tattooed on my lower back, inside a funny green shape that resembles flames. It looks a bit cliché now (hey, I was 18 and it was the nineties ok?) but it very meaningfully signifies “Change”. At least I think…
I tried to check a Mandarin dictionary beforehand, but for all I know, it says “potato” or something. Or maybe it does mean “change”, but the loose coin kind. Whatever, it doesn’t matter now. It’s been there for almost 15 years and the meaning to me is as fixed in my mind as the ink is on my skin.
When I speak of Change (capitalized), I’m referring to the state of constant transformation that defines the universal order. It’s the idea that everything in existence is a perpetual shifting of energy and matter and that there is nothing that remains static. Everything is impermanent. [What better concept to “permanently” inscribe on one’s body?]
Pick any facet of life and you find Change. The atoms that make up our physical world dance endlessly – the earth and tides move continuously, weather systems swirl, plants and animals evolve. The cosmos expand, stars are born and die, even negative space itself grows. It all changes ceaselessly.
As for us, at a cellular and psychological level we are never the same twice. Our bodies continuously work to keep our systems humming. Even after death, cells degrade and rejoin the earth in altered state. And mentally and emotionally, we change all the time. We respond to new stimuli, forge new associations (neural pathways) and constantly build on previous experiences.
The idea that we are anything fixed at all is an illusion. Every day we are new, born again in a different permutation of ourselves.
With all this change in and around us, it’s no wonder we long for stability in daily life. We cling to ideologies, to material objects, to each other and relationships, to our routines, and even to notions of identity, all in effort to secure ourselves against an ever-changing world.
All of which is totally normal. Life naturally shifts constantly and the mind naturally resists by forming attachments. So we are eternally at odds with what simply IS.
But it doesn’t have to end there. What if instead of reflexively fighting the tides of Change, we surrender to its currents and ride them to new adventure? What if we embrace the flux instead of resisting it? What if we see beauty and opportunity in all the transformation, instead of loss? What might we possible for us if we soften our rigid beliefs about ourselves and the world? And what could happen if we respond with changes of our own making, using the shifting winds to steer our sails to true happiness?
We might find that when we stop resisting, we liberate energy to experience new facets of life. We might feel that surrender invites ease and freedom instead of tension and opposition. Without the fear of Change, we might more easily experience excitement. By embracing life’s flexibility, we can find opportunity to design our ideal life experience. And by shedding the labels we cling to, we open ourselves up to so much more understanding and connection with one another.
If Change is the only constant, then the stability we crave is embedded in the guarantee that everything has its time and then becomes something else. Change promises that tomorrow will bring new life, new beauty, a new self, no matter what.
Think on it for a while. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s the most beautiful idea I’ve ever heard.
In me, it inspires awe for all that has ever existed (every moment is unique!), gratitude for all the joy I’ve known, comfort at the promise that pain ends, and curious excitement for all the magical manifestations of life to come.
Let’s choose to live this rare life with wide-eyed wonder and appreciation for ourselves, each other, and our world. To the winds of Change, let’s shout “Bring it on!” and welcome it with open arms.
Today you are rare and precious and awake.
– Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening