Few things are certain, and the need to adapt to change is one of them. We are all, in our own way, adapting to change constantly, and right now, we are all collectively adapting to stay-at-home orders. And as these orders are lifted, we will all be adapting to leaving our homes.
If change is constant and always evolving, why is it so dang hard?!
Change often reminds us of the many uncertainties that we face, which are often the root of fear and anxiety. How do we channel feeling uncertain into flourishing opportunities and feelings of gratitude?
We often have to pass through a level of discomfort in the process. Through the process of being uncomfortable and sitting in that discomfort, we often realize certain truths about ourselves that help shape our role and purpose in life.
5 Tips for Adapting to Change
1. What goes down, must come up
The only concept that is certain is uncertainty, but how do we live with the inevitable ups and downs?
One of my yoga teachers always reminded me that ‘when life is good, you must be prepared for the other side, and when life is going poorly, you must know that the good is coming.’ My two cents on this concept: when life is giving you lemons, we can still find moments, even if only a few minutes or seconds, of light.
The key is being able and open to receiving them.
We can also learn different ways to cope with the downturns. Just like in a yoga asana – in that moment when you’re at your fullest expression for that day when your muscles are burning, your joints are opening, and you’re trying to breathe and hold it all together. In the same way in “real life”, we have some choices.
- We can be discouraged by what the posture is not, how it/we are lacking, focus on the pain, focus on the body parts that we wish were different.
- We can find comfort in the discomfort, notice what we can learn about ourselves and our bodies, find ways to breathe and be still.
2. Finding Comfort: Internal and External
Not all of adapting to change is pushing through. I firmly believe that the balance to trudging through the difficult changes in life is finding ways, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to find comfort.
My mother, in all her wisdom, introduced this concept to me in the form of an “Attitude Adjustment”. When life is challenging, she advises an “Attitude Adjustment”, which translates to finding whatever makes you feel comfortable, calm, or even a bit distracted from life’s challenges. It can be enjoying a show or a movie, calling a friend, a bath, a walk around the block, yard work, wood-working, five minutes of alone time, the list goes on.
The other, arguably more intimidating part of finding comfort, is learning to look inside. Can you spend time with you? And can you come to like it? In our fast-paced culture, there’s mounds of research and one-liners that tell us how important meditation or simply sitting in silence is to a healthy mind.
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”Old Zen Saying
If meditation is not in your daily habits, it can seem intimidating to start. Remind yourself that it’s not about perfection or achieving a certain length of time, it’s just about taking time for YOU.
3. Connect to Your Higher Purpose
Integrity is what you do when no one is looking. How can you create space, habits, and a schedule that serves you?
By far, the largest contributor to finding discipline that’s sustainable and healthy in my life has been my yoga practice. Yoga practice often serves as a proverbial mirror into ourselves. A teacher once said in a class, ‘If you are cheating yourself in your yoga practice, you must think about how you are cheating yourself in your life’. Many hard-earned lessons are earned by observing oneself through yoga practice. But once earned, those lessons will remain with you always!
I’m reminded of one of the “Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” written by Don Miguel Ruiz:
“Always do your best.”
Your best will change from moment to moment, year to year, when you are under the weather or feeling your best. As long as you always do your best, you can avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
4. Change Fear Into Opportunity
The law of conservation of energy states that “energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but only changed from one form into another or transformed from one object to another.” Most of us learned this in science class at some point in our lives. How can we apply a broad scientific law to our daily lives, and why would we want to?
If we think of ourselves as energy, how does our energy manifest? In a yogic sense, we can begin by observing our inner thoughts. Are they positive, uplifting, and loving? Or are they negative, self- deprecating, and harmful? Does it matter?
Considering that energy is neither created nor destroyed, but can be changed from one form into another, and that like energy attracts like energy on a pure vibrational sense, we can start to think of our internal thoughts as energy. If we make an effort to notice and observe our thoughts first, and then make an effort to change negative thoughts into positive or productive thoughts, we might just change the words that come out of our mouth, the relationships that we form or avoid, and the habits that we create.
We can start to change feelings of fear and anxiety that often arise from difficult times of change to thoughts, words, habits, and actions of opportunity, acceptance, and love.
I will be the first to admit that this work is HARD. But if you’re reading this, you might already have the discipline of a yoga practice in your life. Having that discipline can lead towards further observation of self, and someday, more peaceful thoughts, even during difficult times. Some call it “vibrating higher”, others might call it achieving a higher level of self, purpose, or consciousness. But beyond the buzz words, these might just be useful tools in our constantly changing lives.
5. Forgiveness and Grace
The last piece of adapting to change is finding forgiveness and grace in the process. Healthy habits are fun and stress-free when life is treating us well. But what happens when you, or those around you, are having troubling times?
Finding integrity, discipline, and observing thoughts with the goal of improving your life is NOT an easy practice, and just like a yoga asana practice, it’s important to remember that it is a PRACTICE, not a PERFECT. We must be able to forgive ourselves, and others, when the bad times come.
Part of finding forgiveness comes from realizing that just like we have our challenges, so do our friends, loved ones, and colleagues. Comparing ourselves to others or the past is one of the easiest paths to fall into, and both serve us very little.
In our yogic practice, we often hear about not creating expectations, and not attaching to results. It connects to the 8 limbs of yoga, many of which have been alluded to in this post inherently. Pratyahara is the “withdrawal of senses.” This concept seems almost impossible to achieve on the surface level. If we break it down a little bit, we might find that we all practice this concept in our lives, and certainly in our asana practice.
When life, just like asana, becomes challenging, when frustrations or feelings of fear of inadequacy arise, we must practice finding space within ourselves to keep going. A moment of peace, a moment of forgiveness for ourselves or those in our lives, or a moment of grace can give us the fortitude to keep moving, breathing, and practicing.
“Grace” (noun) 1. Simple elegance or refinement of movement. 2. Courteous goodwill (verb) do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence
We at Pure Yoga Texas are kicking off our May Mental Health Awareness Month this week with an exciting guest speaker on Friday, May 8th at 7pm. This FREE event with a teacher who is a true gem, Georgia Balligian, is not to be missed!! See you all there.
Get informed and be inspired with PURE Action’s Mental Health #yogaTALK series every Friday in May, 2020.
Brooke Spencer is a Bikram Yoga (Spring 2017 Acapulco) and Yin Yoga teacher based in Austin, Texas. Before moving to Austin, she grew up near Chicago and lived in NYC for 7 years. She was hosted as a traveling teacher in cities around the world: Nice, Vienna, Austin, Aurora, West Palm Beach, Merritt Island, Boulder, New Haven, Madison, and Wurzburg, Germany. She began her yoga teaching career at Bikram Yoga Astoria, Yoga Tribe Brooklyn, and YogaHell BK. After spending the first part of her adult career working as an accountant, she has grown tremendously with the adoption of a yogic lifestyle. Follow her on Instagram and find her on the teaching schedule at pureyogatexas.com