If you want to make either fundamental change in your life, how do you go about it? How do you stay centered? And how do you find direction? I’m not referring to changing your job, your home, etc. I’m talking about making a profound change in your fundamental approach to life that alters the manner in which your life is organized, either internally or externally.
In terms of the Eightfold Path, the aspiration to make change comes about through wise view. Through wise view you realize that you need or want to make a change in your life and then you act upon it. It also involves wise intention because you encounter numerous roadblocks along the way and have to start over many times in order to stay on course and right effort because if you see you’re heading toward something that’s unwholesome you have to alter your course. Change requires faith that it is possible for you to live more aligned with your essence.
Fundamental change is risky, however mindfulness can support your wise intention and wise effort. If you are contemplating a fundamental internal or external change right now or one lies ahead for you, name what that change might be. Then with kindness toward yourself and beginners mind, open to the following questions. In discerning what’s true, you will know whether the change is wise or not wise.
- Where does my motivation to make change lie? Is it coming from my heart, my intuition, or my head center? Or is it coming from other people?
- Is this change of essence to my well-being? If the answer is yes, is it my outer or inner well-being?
- What is fueling my motivation to change? My ego? Fatigue? Resentment? Anger? Aversion? Greed? Wanting mind? Is it a sense of obligation? A self-destructive impulse? Is it safety? Is it a need for more purpose or meaning in life? More relatedness to other people or nature? Or a need for service? Is it love that’s motivating this change? Artistic or creative impulse? Is it to get more of a sense of freedom? Owning my own time?
- Who will support me in making this change?
- What are the practical things that stand in the way?
- If I make this change, what am I giving up?
- What if anything will this change cost others? Who would be hurt by this change?
- Am I prepared to pay the price for making a change if it fails?
- What needs to happen for this change to occur?
- If this change fails, what might the reasons be?
- In what ways might I undermine my own best efforts?
- Who will serve as my reality check?
- What if anything do I need from others to make this change?
- Would people I respect but don’t know personally support this change?
- What do I expect from this change?
- Is fear or some perceived limitation stopping me from making this change?
- Am I ambivalent about this change? Is there unrecognized ambiguity in my perceived values?
The Dynamics of Change
Impulse is not a good reason for making fundamental change. An impulse can elicit strong emotions, so you may be fooled into thinking it’s your heart speaking to you. When you feel an impulse to change, ask yourself if it is your intuition speaking to you. If it is, you will feel it in your body, and it will come back again.
Change can be so internally oriented that nothing in your outer life changes as far as anybody can tell. But you have changed. Sometimes an internal change can alter how you are in the world and you start to feel like a totally different person, but nobody notices. This can seem hurtful or disappointing. Or maybe people do notice. Either way, your essence isn’t organized around other peoples’ perceptions.
An area of missed opportunity for many of us is making small changes. We sometimes don’t make a small change because we don’t deem it worthwhile, or we’re confused, or we don’t have time. But even a small change can be fundamental. So you make this change because your heart and intuition tell you to. Your life unfolds from there and you’re someone who is fundamentally different.