There's a well-known song by Sheryl Crow called "A Change Would Do You Good." It's about a woman tired of a man whose lifestyle reflects his shallow values, and its insistent and joyful refrain is inspiring. A change would do you good! Yes indeed it would, you sing with a smile.
Yet change is the ultimate challenge.
What happens when you suspect that you are on the wrong path or in the wrong place -- whether it's part of a toxic marriage, an untenable job situation or a religious institution that is not authentic to you? How do you become emboldened and inspired to make changes, even if it means offending people close to you or jeopardizing your financial well being or social standing?
With change there always comes risk. How can we be courageous enough to accept that risk and make the changes we know, deep in our hearts, we need?
Life Is a Transformational Journey
We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our families and to the world to embrace that which is life-giving for our unique, differentiated selves. This invariably means that each of us is on an adventurous, sometimes nerve-wracking transformational journey. We must remain true to that journey of transformation no matter how much resistance we receive from without and within.
Change is frightening. It certainly was for me when I was a young man seeking my way. So many of us would rather stay in situations that we know are not good for us because we are afraid of change. Stasis can be oddly comforting; it is an evil we already know.
But when we accept a situation in which we are stagnant and do nothing to change it, we are shortchanging ourselves, our loved ones, and the world. Ultimately, it's untenable. Stress will manifest physically or psychologically. Our bodies will eventually rebel, telling us we must change. So we must be courageous and empower ourselves in order to embrace our true potential.
Sometimes I wonder if life is not about what kind of pain we are willing to embrace. There is a pain I call "sweet pain;" this is the pain that is stretching us, leading us to health -- a phrase I borrow from my yoga teacher: "Stretch to the point of sweet pain, but no farther."
On the other hand, there is a toxic pain which comes from living a life that doesn't have your name on it.
In making decisions regarding our own actions, fear can invade us after Truth has pointed the way toward an authentic, differentiated life grounded in love. That fear confuses us, infecting us with the most perplexing doubts. Yet every time fear tempts us to abandon course, the Beloved again invites us to practice the Habit of Truth and to be open to change.
The pattern of charting our authentic course -- marked by wavering confidence and external resistance, and culminating in a deepened commitment to that which has our name on it -- has been a familiar experience to all spiritual seekers, including Jesus at the time of his temptation in the desert.
We cannot banish fear and pain from our lives. But if we commit to being awake, we can become conscious of our deepest motivations, thus asserting love's primacy over fear with this awareness. When we are grounded by love, fear diminishes.
When we tolerate sweet pain to inch closer to a place of health and wellness, we can avoid the excruciating pain of a life in stasis, a life unlived, a spirit unfulfilled.
The Next Step
When you are afraid of change, when you are complacent in the status quo or asleep at the wheel, the very first step you must take is finding Stillness and reaching deep inside yourself to unmask your truth.
You are loved and capable of love, and this gives you immense power. Trust that fear or pain diminishes in direct proportion to the generosity and love you extend to yourself and to others.
Ask yourself this question: Is the risk of alienating someone or jeopardizing financial well being, social standing and personal relationships really so much worse than living an inauthentic life? When we are not true to ourselves because of fear that we will be judged harshly or hurt others, we shrink into a more constricted and constrained version of ourselves. It's hard to tolerate this for long.
Certainly, be as respectful as you can of the opinions of others, be as kind as you can to those who oppose you, and always stay connected to those who are resisting you as long as it doesn't mean opening yourself to abuse.
But above all, be yourself and stay the course of your deepest self, maintaining the flexibility to make mid-course corrections.