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The Nature of Change

drawing of ear

As we say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to a return to normal in 2021, we are reminded of the fragility of life. So often, we get caught up in routines and forget about the joy of living.

These darker moments have given depth and dimension to all that we've taken for granted. Looking back, we can see how even the simplest of life’s pleasures can fulfill us.

When change appears in nature, it presents itself in many forms. Like the sound of Thunder, we are shocked out of our slumber and awakened to the call to do things differently.

In the same way autumn strips away all remnants of the past, we are unable to see the prelude of our springtime to come, or the growth that life has in store for us.

Four Faces of Change

The first face of change is always disturbing. All that is not sustainable or unproductive to life’s wellness, must first be brought out of hiding. It takes something disturbing to capture our attention. Otherwise, we'd keep going in the same direction.

The second face of change can be frightening because we believe we are in charge and can control the outcome. We see clearly that something is wrong, but cannot see the remedy. Studies conducted in social settings show how fear leads people to affiliate with those of like mind to gain support. As opposition forces grow, the solution can appear ominous.

The third face of change requires a re-evaluation of our priorities. We are forced to acknowledge that our way – is not the only way. In fact, it seems there are so many different ways that achieving harmony can be daunting.

Finally, the fourth face of change reminds us that something greater than what we could have imagined, has a trajectory focused only on growth and balance. Nothing can hide from nature when it sets out to return life to equilibrium.

We can imagine a parched field, where erosion has left the landscape lifeless. Because there are no plants and trees, the weather patterns and erosion become more severe.

However, this movement of earth and stones brought about by increased storm activity, actually encourages new growth. From new growth, roots can begin to stabilize the soil. Over time, the landscape moves toward a rebirth.

Left to its own devices, life renews itself.

This is why the idea of Tranquility in Disturbance is such an important aspect of Taoist teaching. Knowing that nature and life move in a constant cycle of change that ensures balance, there is no need to react to every event as if it is a conclusion. What is unfolding is just one of life's many faces of change.

Nature breaks down blockages and ensures wellness in its interconnected and endless flow. It has been doing this for 4.5 billion years. Why would human activity not be a part of life's cycles of growth and balance?

We stand here today, facing one crisis after another. We must assume that life knows what it is doing. We will play a part in working to heal what is not sustainable, but this doesn’t mean that bringing the problem out of hiding was a bad thing.

Now we know. Now we can see. Now we must learn to understand what didn’t work.

The Shape of our Beliefs

What we believe is not necessarilly another's reality. We cannot project our values onto others and expect concensus.

The disturbing and frightening aspects of change affect everyone in different ways. People move at their own pace, and hold their truths to be self evident.

Just as we sympathize with those who feel the system is unjust during the summer, we might apply the same sensitivity to those who march during winter. Rather than blame each other and take sides, maybe we should look at the system and not the messengers.

Beliefs are a powerful thing – they are like bombs. We may not agree, but we cannot just wrestle away someone's idea and not expect an explosion.

Beliefs have the power to both create and destroy. The more one side tugs – the harder the other side will pull back. Our beliefs don't define us – our behavior defines us.

Tranquility in Disturbance allows us to calm our desire to be certain, so that we can listen to one another.

In nature, nothing comes to a standstill. When anything reaches an extreme, it simply moves in the opposite direction.

Managing change and crisis requires changing behavior. Did we hit rock bottom? Are we ready to change? These are just necessary acknowledgements before any type of change can occur.

Tranquility in Disturbance allows us for compassion, so that no group of individuals feel they must riot in order to be heard.

A parent who settles an argument among children does so by bringing both together. They discuss ownership of bad behavior and the best way to achieve harmony in moving forward. Accord is never a one-sided solution.

Emotions are like energy. They give charge to an argument. This energy is just a measure of how strongly we feel we must defend our point of view. Remove the charge, and it becomes a discussion.

Defensiveness ensures that the outcome will be relentless. Tranquility in Disturbance allows us to observe without an emotional reaction, or need to defend anything. Taoists know we are the guests here – not the host.

Since change has shown us its face – we can't be certain of anything.

But if we allow life to take its natural course, we can develop faith in the outcome. It is faith, not fear, that will allow us to work together to find the solution.