Winds of Change

by Satya (Tricia) Hurley, M.Ed.

Today I want to talk about change.  Yes, change.  For many, that is a terrifying proposition.  We fear it, avoid it, turn it into some big story.  We feed it with worry and with fear—fear of what might be; fear of the unknown.  We get stifled and stuck. One of the worst things we can do for ourselves is to stay stagnant, fixed, unmovable. 

    • What if there were a way to navigate change with grace?  
    • What if we could access an inner knowing that supersedes all worries, doubts, fears, and anxieties?  
    • What if there were a way to unstick yourself from a rut?

We’ve all be there at one time or another, that place where overwhelm hits and you don’t know where to turn next.  Or, maybe you’ve found yourself, hunkering down, holding on even though you know the best and right thing to do is to let go. Old, limiting beliefs can stop us dead in our tracks if we let them.

Here’s a recent personal example: I lost my dad this past August.  My brother and I planned to release his remains on his birthday, October 1st, an act of fulfilling his final wishes. Our destination, the summit of Mount Washington.

As the day approached, I found myself making excuses upon excuses—reasons not to go, reasons why the weather wasn’t right, on and on. I had become accustomed to my dad’s ashes sitting in my living room awaiting their release, the last physical evidence of his body close.  I knew it wasn’t really him, but their presence brought me comfort just the same. So, when it came time to let him go, the will to do so did not come so easily.

Sometimes the mind will make up all kinds of stories to help us justify avoiding change. I found myself trapped in being overly attached to a fixed outcome, fuel for avoidance, excuses, and blame.  I had a clear picture in my mind. I wanted the day to be private, beautiful, warm, and sunny at the top of a mountain infamous for its volatile weather conditions.  All the stipulations I had placed for what things needed to look like were 100% outside of my control.

While certain parts of the view driving up the auto road were undoubtedly lovely, the weather at the top was windy, wet, cloudy, cold. In spite of the conditions, there were lots of people.  My mind kicked in with avoidance justifications–it’s going to be too muddy, too messy.  “Let’s just let go of a little bit here at the top and see what happens in this weather,” I said to my brother.  “We can release the rest lower down where the skies are clear and where there are fewer people.”

As it turned out, strong winds were EXACTLY what was needed to properly carry the ashes away.   We would not have known this without testing the waters. My big-picture lesson: the winds of change come in large, strong gusts. Anything less would have prevented the ashes from taking proper flight.

After our test release, we made our way back down the mountain to the spot that had been beautifully clear and sunny on our ascent.  As fate would have it, the weather below was no longer what I wanted it to be.  Resistance kicked in big time.  The urge to drive away, incomplete, avoiding finishing what we stared was unmistakable.  EXCUSES abounded. We knew we needed the wind, but the day did not look anything like my fixed vision.

Pause. Breathe.  Let go of expectations.  Surrender.  My inner voice grew. In faith and trust, take the first step toward what is. When you do, the whole landscape changes.  I knew we needed to return to the top. 

With surrender and a fresh perspective, a new option appeared.  A lower parking lot that escaped our earlier consideration magnetically drew us in.  As the car rolled forward, we opened to the conditions present—the cloudiness of not knowing. We opened and trusted that we were exactly where we needed to be, even if we couldn’t see clearly — guided to THE PERFECT spot.  Private. Windy. On the edge.

Gusts rattled the car, and there was not a single soul in sight.  Braced against a rock for our stability, my brother and I plunged our hands in our Pop’s remains.  In complete silence and unison, we released the first handful. My body filled with tears and joy all at once as I heard my dad’s voice in my inner ear, shouting, “YES!”.  This spot and these conditions were precisely what our dad had in mind.  We cracked open a couple of Guinness Draught’s (our dad’s favorite beer) and proceeded to spend the next hour laughing and shouting with joy as each handful of remains, prayers, love, and blessings found freedom upon Grace’s wings.  What we initially feared and resisted transformed into heart-bursting elation.

Where are you stuck in your life? Where are you resisting change? Is it physical, mental, emotional, all of the above? Whether the change is big or small, we as humans tend to hold on tight, even when what we hold onto is not healthy for us.

Sometimes we seem so sure, so sure that what’s next is going to be worse. Our mind creates all kinds of stories and avoidances. We project, what’s next might be scarier than what is. We tell ourselves, “At least I know what I’m dealing with.” in some justification for staying in the same old rut, the same old path. So often we fear the unknown and hold ourselves back. The winds of change need not be scary unless we make them so.  

A wise teacher once told me that fear is not a word; it’s an acronym.  F.E.A.R.:
False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

So I challenge you.  Whatever change or fears you’re facing at this moment, do something different. Do something to change your perspective so you can move forward, get out of that rut, live life. 

  1. Slow down.  Pause. Breathe. Invite yourself to connect to the present moment.
  2. Cultivate inner awareness. Be honest with yourself.  What is it costing me to hold on? How can I shift internally to be in truth and integrity with me? Focus on what is showing up for you instead of placing blame on outside people or circumstances.
  3. Be willing to be curious.  Invite a playful sense of wonder. What is here?  So what, what if I don’t “know” what I’m dealing with? How can I grow or learn from this?  What’s my part in this? How else can I look at this?
  4. Surrender.  Let go. Trust.  Open to the possibility of a different outcome. What’s the worst that could happen?  What’s the best that could happen? What’s the best that could happen if I changed my perspective?  What’s the best that could happen if I paused, breathed, and took a step forward in a new direction?
  5. Be willing to change what you can (your perceptions and reactions).  Release what you think “should” be and look for the gift in what is. Reclaim your energy and take charge of how you respond instead of reacting.
  6. Be gentle with yourself.   Change can’t be rolled up into a neat little package.   Personal transformation is messy and requires flexibility, fluidity, and faith. Let go of self-criticism.  Practice self-compassion.

These concepts are simple and challenging all at the same timesimple, not so easy. They require inner commitment, daily self-renewal, and practice.  They are also some of the most potent ways to navigate what might otherwise seem like an impossible task. So, I invite you to embrace the winds of change.  Invite the possibility that everyday life changes us into the next beautiful thing. Live. Learn. Grow. Be.