It is a truism, but also one of the fundamental truths: life is dynamic, and hence permanently impermanent. I think nobody doubts that after 2020.
Even though we all know that life can take us by surprise at any time - whenever we go through a change, whenever we lose something (or someone) - it is so hard to accept, so hard to be at ease. We are constantly becoming, and when we think we finally became - we need to start becoming all over again.
Everything is in a constant transformation, everything is in a constant process.
So am I...
My biggest personal lesson of impermanence has started in May 2019. I was in New Zealand, running Yin Yoga Teacher Training course for a group of beautiful people of Dunedin when I realised my dad stopped answering to my messages. All of a sudden. He was 86, so I cannot say it was fully shocking. Actually, my dad was always old in my eyes - when I was born he was already 50, so I was expecting his death practically for my entire childhood. He managed to wait till my 38th birthday, but it still hurt a lot. Well, loosing your parents, no matter how difficult your relation with them was always hurts, doesn't it?
Right after loosing my dad (and partly because of that) I broke up with my husband. Of course, our crisis didn't happen overnight, but this critical period for me catalysed and exposed the end of our marriage. Maybe one day I will be able to share something more about this chapter, but since it is really nothing graceful to share - I will spare you the details for now. The point is: yoga teachers get divorced, and it is not always as rainbowy as we wish. We are just regular people.
What is important here is that after 10 years of being in a deep and nourishing relationship (surely with its ups and downs, mostly ups), I was again on my own: uncertain about the business (as my ex-husband was my business partner too), uncertain if I could ever get over my grief and move on alone, uncertain if I could ever fall in love again... all I knew at that time was the sound of deep and heavy silence of our big empty apartment after he finally left.
Oh, and hey, wait - it is not the end! Literally a few weeks later, I managed to get myself together, and instead of sipping wine at home alone every evening (of course there is nothing wrong in sipping red!), and instead of listening to sad songs of Amy Winehouse, I packed my car, took my furry daughter Maya, and went to Italy for a healing trip (yes, my kind of Eat. Pray. Love).
A few days after we crossed beautiful Veneto, and were on our way to visit the famous Venezia Carnival, the world got into the first Covid lock-down. I could not have believed in the breaking news: the countries were getting closed, one after another, Italy being first. I knew I got stuck.
*On the picture: Me & Maya on our way to Italy, Innsbruck/ Austria, 15 February 2020 (*she really hates posing to pictures); by the way in 2020-21 we drove together over 10000km through Europe:-)
Why are we actually afraid of NEW?
Change is inevitable, but it is always challenging. Neuroscientists and psychologists explain that change is stressful, because it always requires an extra effort, and sometimes an extra time. While 'OLD' we can do pretty mechanically, faster and with ease, 'NEW' requires new strategies, learning and adapting. 'NEW' brings a risk of 'failure' (mostly unwanted by our ego), as well as can cause a potential 'WORSE'. There is no warranty that 'NEW' will be better. We tend to avoid changes to save our energy, to stay in our 'comfort zone'. On the other hand, our 'comfort zone' not always means the actual comfort. It is often a 'comfort' coming from avoiding potential 'discomfort', from escaping from new challenges and a 'risk of failure'. But is our 'comfort zone' really equal to our satisfaction and wellness? No, it is not always the case.
Being afraid of changes totally resonates with me and my own overprotective nervous system. I don't like 'NEW' at all! Changes make me anxious, worried, and cost me a lot, especially on the mental and emotional level. Adjusting was never easy for me either. I juts like it my way. Maybe because my astrological sign is cancer, or maybe because I am a Highly Sensitive Person. Or maybe because, just like most of other people, I find changes difficult and overwhelming. For whatever reason, I like buying the same things in the same shops, I like wearing the same clothes of the same colours and styles, and I get easily attached to my routine. My patterns tend to be change-resistant.
But then, it is also worth noticing the other part of the story: by avoiding changes we also avoid potential 'BETTER', potential empowerment, and very very probable growth. Whether 'NEW' will turn to be 'better' or not - we will most probably grow and evolve as we will gain new experiences, face new challenges, get new skills and solutions, and discover new perspectives and observations. In other words: in order to grow we need to turn towards 'NEW', even if it feels intimidating and overwhelming, which is actually pretty healthy and natural.
Change is not always 'good'! Stop feeding us with bull**t.
While there are situations in which we can choose if we want to change something in our life or not, there are also plenty of moments in which we cannot avoid a change, even if we want to. We cannot just decide whether we go for it or not, because it just happens beyond us. Covid's pandemic is perhaps a great lesson of this kind of change. We cannot control everything and everyone around us, and hence sometimes a change doesn't ask for permission to enter.
Listening to many wise or popular people (sadly, it is not always the same group!), mostly to those who talk about psychology, philosophy, sociology, values, healthy lifestyle... I am always get super irritated and triggered when someone tries to prove that change is always positive and good for us. IT IS NOT! Almost nothing is ALWAYS good or bad. Everything is contextual and rather complex. Motivational quotes on Instagram sometimes sound even inspiring or uplifting, but I am not looking for a wisdom of a 'fortune cookie' or a random superficial horoscope from a colourful TV magazine. Every change is a possibility, sure, but not every change is positive. The change is usually also a loss that brings us sadness and grief. So, in my research I gravitate towards people who see the complexity of life and the human nature, yet can give practical and useful tips about how to adapt to a change.
Here I collected my 5 favourite tools and strategies that I started applying over 2 years ago, when changes in my life became overwhelming. I keep practicing all of them, even though I cannot say I am the master (yet):
1. Name your feelings. Normalize the discomfort you feel.
I took this one from dr Brené Brown. She created a brilliant strategy called 'FFT" (Fuc**ing First Time) which encourages people to name, accept and normalize the fact that NEW SUCKS. It is normal that a new situation, new job or a new relationship feel scary. It is normal to have fears, doubts or a 'second thought'. Courage is not equal to the lack of fear. Courage is being ready to act despite the fear we feel. Despite the discomfort. Despite, not without.
I am not sure where it all comes from in my own case, but every time I feel a bit anxious I also feel I am weak, small, incapable, I am a failure... But let's acknowledge the fact that the fear is an absolutely normal response! In fact, human fear is a response that has kept us alive through the entire history of our race!
So, doing something NEW or being NEW at something makes us vulnerable, and insecure, and that's normal. We all feel a discomfort of being NEW at things. BRAVE is uncomfortable. Yet, it is the only way to growth.
2. Put your feelings in a perspective, and do the reality check.
Manage your expectations.
Embracing the fact that the NEW usually sucks leads us to the next step, which is acknowledging that this awkward and vulnerable feeling is not permanent. For a while it may suck and be stressful, but it will not last forever. All we need to do is adjusting our own expectations - about ourselves and the effects of mastering the NEW. 'I will not nail it straight away, I may need time to learn how to do it, I need to accept that I can make mistakes on the way. It is a learning process'. That's my new mantras. This point helps me in particular, because I tend to be a perfectionist, and I have been always taught to set the expectations from myself really high. But then, I had to also learn that they need to be somehow realistic. Don't expect you will rock in the NEW straight away. Don't expect you will have it all sorted on the first day of your CHANGE. Take your time to learn, and I promise - you will learn.
3. Practice (Yin) Yoga, Mindfulness & Meditation
In a way Yin Yoga practice represents for me these awkward moments of transition, the uncertainty of a change, the process of becoming. We are 'stuck' for a while, so we learn to accept our discomforts and edges, embrace time and patience, and at the same time we can still find an ease and relaxation. Even pleasure! We surrender, we try to let go, but in a conscious and totally safe way, respecting our boundaries and taking care of supporting ourselves in this process. Bolsters, blankets, music, breath. Self-care is a nice cushion for a challenge. Yin teaches me to accept and observe without overreacting. Yin teaches me to embrace discomfort and change. Yin teaches me patience. Actually, other Yoga styles work for me too, but in Yin we really have nothing else to do than just 'being' and 'becoming' (or sometimes 'un-becoming').
Another great tool can be meditation. Out of all meditation techniques that I practice I love simple silent sitting with observing my thoughts and emotions as a movie. I imagine the big screen on which there are being projected the scenes from my inside: images, memories, thoughts, words, sounds, people. And I am just a watcher, I am just an audience.
Mindfulness is a great support too. It allows me to stay connected and grounded.
A short mindful walk, journaling in the evening or even a mindful breakfast reset my mind, and temper my inner judge, allowing me to separate voices in my head from voices in my heart. I can hear them clearly just as thoughts, coming and going, without this crazy spiral effect of pulling my whole attention into negative and harsh inner critic.
4. Time is the key. Grief has no expiration date.
Every change is a loss. Even if we are happy or released by getting rid of the past - we may experience grief and a deep sense of loss. Maybe we lost our expectations and dreams, maybe something more literal and physical. If we are not happy about the change in our life - obviously we suffer from grief and loss by default. Grieving is really a complex topic. Psychologists and psychiatrists say that grief has different stages, and each of us deals with loss in a slightly different way. I often read and listen to David Kessler who not only is a world-renowned 'expert of death and grieving', but also having an experience of death of his own son he speaks about grief in a very touching and authentic way. What I want to share here with you is that grief has no time frame and expiration date. That's why it is so important not to put on ourselves any timer or pressure for dealing with changes. Take time and create space for your way of going through your loss and grieving. Do not rush this process. I know, we all just want to wake up the next day after a break up or a funeral not feeling this heavy pain of our heart broken into pieces, but wounds just need some time to heal. Period.
5. Reach out to someone who can support you.
I know how hard it may feel to ask for help, but always try to reverse the situation. If your friend, colleague, sister or a student came to you just to talk or get a hug soothing their tears, and taking the load off their shoulders - would you feel it is awkward or a sign of 'weakness'? I wouldn't think that at all! It is normal we want to hug a friend betrayed by a husband, it is normal we want to give support to our partner who lost the job. Reaching out there for any support you need is a sign of maturity and self-care. If it is easier to talk to a 'stranger' you can find a coach, tutor or a therapist.
Telling someone about what you go through is not a sign of weakness! Just like having a tooth pain may require a dentist or a painkiller. We don't need to be alone pretending that 'all is well' (meaning we pretend that we feel nothing despite circumstances). Unnecessary shame is a kind of hidden pandemic, as I already wrote in another post. But just like we get a flu, tooth pain or menstrual cramps - there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to our emotions.
What I really love about times we live in is that there are so many possibilities to get support we need. For example, I belong to many Facebook groups for Highly Sensitive People, because it allows me to exchange information, inspirations, books and workshops, and even actual support whenever I feel like a 'total looser'. However, in my humble opinion nothing can replace a professional help and support. But this is a big and sometimes pretty hard step to take. In 2020 I decided myself to go for a psychotherapy, cause I was tired of crying home by myself, and I didn't want to analyse my entire life all over again with every beautiful friend I have, even though my friends gave me a beautiful support anyway. Thank Y'All!
I wanted and needed to confront myself with what was happening on a deeper level. It was a beautiful journey, opening my eyes for both OLD and NEW, and settling down a bit in this new chapter of my life without my father, without my husband and without the entire pre-Covid world. The work is still in progress, I would say, even though my therapy is over.
I am nobody to advise you anything, I know everybody is different, and I know your stories can be another pair of shoes. I just am here to honestly share my inner truth and experience. As a teacher, as a trainer, as a woman, as a person. We are in a constant process of transforming, changing, facing NEW... - as individuals and as a collective. It is not always pleasant, and often rather painful. But that's the nature of things: we are constantly becoming.
I truly believe, in this process we can become more and more ourselves - beautiful and conscious people - if we only allow this process to be mindful, patient and properly supported. Full of compassion and forgiveness.
I wish you all smooth and as painless as possible changes in the upcoming 2022.