Mindfulness Activity #87
Allowing Natural Change
Good Morning. Sometimes when we have a problem or a situation that is either longstanding or complicated, it can feel like no matter how hard you work, it does not change. One principle drawn from Zen is called allowing natural change. It’s related to the concept of acceptance. It involves accepting current conditions… watching and observing fluctuations in the problem or situation without trying to control the situation. Note that this would not be my strategy of choice if you can actually change something, but when efforts to change something do not work, allowing natural change is a response that reduces your frustration. It’s a little like the saying, a watched pot doesn’t boil. If you are waiting for your water to boil because you need macaroni and cheese NOW, it seems to take longer. If you allow the stovetop to do its job without fixating on your pot, it will actually boil eventually. The idea here is that sometimes our efforts to control things might make a situation worse or at least make you feel worse about it.
Remember the little bird that banged into my window at 6:30 am each day like clockwork? Well, after putting up colorful signs and wind chimes and everything else I could think of to get her to see the error of her ways, I just gave up. I decided that I couldn’t control her. Guess what? She stopped banging into the window and has made a nice nest across the yard in a tree. Not on my timeclock, but hers. When I decided I couldn’t do anything about it, I stopped going in that room with that window in the morning. I’m not sure exactly when she stopped, but it has been at least two weeks.
So today, think about someone or something you want to change in your life. If you are working TOO HARD and all your efforts to control the person or situation are not working, consider letting go and allowing natural change. Try to stop trying…Try to simply notice the situation or person and your feelings about them or the situation. Observe and describe the experience moment to moment, without wishing it were different or trying to force it to be different.
For our practice, settle in, take a few breaths in and out, straightening as you feel the oxygen waking up your body. Now, think about a person or situation that you wish was different. Understanding that despite your efforts, you cannot actually control the person or situation, make a conscious decision to accept that you do not have control. Radically accept it. Accept your feelings of frustration, perhaps anger, perhaps sadness. Make a decision to allow natural change. Continue to breathe in and out, softly focused on this situation. Set a timer for 5 minutes, then listen to the following clip, breathing in and out while silently saying, I am willing to accept natural change. I accept the situation as it is. I accept that I do not like this, and I accept the feelings that come with it. Breathe in and out deeply until your timer ends.
The idea of this practice is not to give up, but to give up controlling. What you might find is that if you focus on your own feelings and responses, and other important things you need to do in the present, that sometimes letting go allows change to happen.
Wishing you patience as you weather the natural changes we didn’t ask for but are negotiating now!
Have a nice weekend!