Change is inevitable. Is suffering optional?
Change is inevitable. Is suffering optional?

Change is inevitable. Is suffering optional?

In early October I moved from Dursey Island back onto the mainland (‘the Continent’ as its sometimes referred to on the Island). I moved about 12km North East to a house by the beach, with a view to the Atlantic, near Allihies village.

After a few days in my new home I had a chance to look over the trajectory of this change and how I had been navigating it. I am aware of just how strong change can be for us and just how much I, for one, can resist it.

Over my life I have moved a lot, some might think that one gets used to it, but even with the awareness of the impending move and knowing that staying on the island during the darker winter months wouldn’t be good for me, I still found the change really stressful.

Moving house is one of those events that sends a ripple of change through all aspects of our lives, upending our regular routines and forcing us to change how we do many of our day-to-day activities. I find that moving in particular really throws my nervous system: I loose my appetite, I forget to drink water, I can’t sleep and I struggle to maintain concentration.

My way of coping with moving was to spend the last few weeks on the island thanking ever little nook and cranny that I passed. I thanked the rocks and especially the sea, the wild winds and the incredible sun rises, I thanked the bed that held me safe at night, the walls floor and ceiling of the house. The gratitude helped me to deal with the grief I felt in letting go. I found creative ways of engaging in the change by spending quiet time in my favourite places, taking photos, painting and writing. I needed to give myself a lot of time and space to move slowly: finding my pace in it and allowing lots of time for gratitude, honouring…. and packing.

The move itself happened really smoothly and in a bit of a whirlwind, all of a sudden I was in my new place. As the dust settled and I found myself alone in my new home, I landed into the grief I felt for the familiar and magical time, I spent on Dursey Island being a thing of the past. But I didn’t want to feel how sad I was and found myself in a numb and emotionless place distracting through watching random series on Netflix. I decided to just go with it but the distraction didn’t bring much relief to be honest, I still had to look at all the boxes and knew I had to unpack at some stage.

I finally got round to unpacking, and what came next was annoyance at not being able to locate the things I had packed and agitation at my regular routines being shot to pieces. With no reference points in a new home even simple tasks like making breakfast take so much longer (oh the discomfort of first world problems… I know!).

In becoming aware of the frustration I found myself getting curious about it: this change of routine brought a very different quality to my actions than the usual autopilot mode: I was more awake to what I was doing and I found I could be curiously grateful for the amount of consciousness I could bring when I was navigating a new routine. I found myself appreciating this newness in all the simple daily activities and I recognised that very soon I would have developed new automatic routines.. so I decided to enjoy this little settling period and the slowing of time that it brought.

I noticed that I seemed to be in little eddies of annoyance, frustration, then curiosity and gratitude.. and back to frustration. To find my feet when I wobble I reached out to friends and got creative about how I inhabit my new home: experimenting with where things should go, moving furniture around, changing lighting, organising, moving and reorganising. When that became overwhelming I went outside and explored my new surroundings: connecting with the land, meeting my neighbours, taking photographs and painting.

The Sunday evening after moving in I was still struggling to find my bearings in the house. I joined a group online to honour an amazing man that I met a few years ago when I went on the Pachamama Alliance journey into the Andes and the rainforest in Ecuador. David Tucker passed away a few months ago, after a very challenging 2-year illness. I only knew him briefly but he deeply impacted my life.

It was beautiful, very moving and powerful to be a part of this online event to honour David’s life, through stories, songs and gratitude. Also I realised it was a profound gift for me, it was a reframing and a lesson in how to negotiate change consciously and with more love and grace.

Death is the only inevitable change that we all know we will face and David had the blessing (of sorts) of knowing that he was dying. All of his life changed in every imaginable way in this process: he had to relinquish control of his body, his autonomy, his capacity to speak and even being able hold his beautiful wife and daughters. His friends and family spoke of how difficult the two years were and also how David embraced the process in a very conscious way, with the understanding that it was an initiation for him, a right of passage.

David was a powerful advocate for change. Filled with hope his life was dedicated to honouring and bringing awareness about the wisdom of the indigenous people of the rainforest and the Andes into the world; learning and teaching how we can honour life in our doings and beings with the hope that we can change the dream of the future and change how we treat our living Earth.

David had learned a lot about the ancient indigenous wisdom of the tribes he spent time with and worked closely with many Shamans and leaders. His friends and colleagues talked about his belief and guiding principle of Sacred Reciprocity or proper relationship, which is the central principle of life for many of the Indigenous people of South America and in particular of the Andes. This belief says that all of life is connected and that everything we do has an impact on everything else. It calls us to bring awareness to what we are doing and to offer thanks as an expression of sacred reciprocity. This belief would have guided David in his final initiation: a journey of change that he took with much courage and grace.

This idea of Sacred reciprocity reminds me that all of life is change, everything around us is changing and change is inevitable because we are intrinsically part of life.

What causes me pain in the changes in my life are: my attachment to the past and to what has become familiar, my attempts to control the inevitable, my denial of change, not taking the time I need to make the adjustment and my fear of the unknown.

Change can be painful, but the amount of suffering we experience with change can be optional. The silver linings are the lessons we learn about ourselves as we engage with a little more consciousness.

My moving was trivial in the face of what David experienced but I recognise it as a chance to practice how I engage with change in a more conscious way.

Some things that I have found useful in dealing with change so as to reduce the suffering include:

  • Bringing awareness to what is really dear to me. Honouring and showing gratitude for what I am leaving behind: for how it has nourished me and supported me.
  • Holding the intention to consciously and gracefully let go of controlling that which I truly cannot.
  • Learning to accept that change will happen. My power lies in choosing how I respond to it.
  • Being gentle with myself as I find my pace with change. Not pushing to control it and not landing into denial, but finding my balance and being gentle when I loose it.
  • Using my creativity as part of my process of honouring, of gratitude, of engaging and experimenting with what is possible in my new experience.

We are connected to all of life and all of life is change: we are part of all the beating hearts, the movement of the tides, the rising and falling of the sun, moon and stars, the falling of the rain, storms and the flowing of the rivers. I believe that I received a beautiful blessing from David as I learned of his phenomenal capacity to engage in our greatest change, the dying process: a reminder that we are here as active changing, moving and evolving participants in life.

Sacred reciprocity (Ayni) means learning to live in harmony with the spirit of the Earth: giving thanks for what we receive

“Ayni is gratitude, respect, honour and reciprocal living. Put simply, Ayni is about recognising that all of life exists in a sacred balance of give and take. When we practice Ayni we send a message to Existence and partake in the gifts that Life, in exchange, gives back to us. In other words, when observing Ayni we give back to the earth whenever we receive, and by giving to the earth, we know that we’ll be privileged to get something back in return.” Mateo Sol