Flowing with Change
You can’t step into the same river twice, nor can you live the same experience over and over again or even visit the same place twice. How then do we cope with this constant change?
When I have a good experience, I tend to want to experience it again and again. In a way this is a kind of addiction. But even without a desperate need to experience something over and over, sometimes we just want to meet a person we knew or visit a place we enjoyed with the expectation that it will be a similar experience.
Everything is in constant flux, and it seems that as the world gets more technical, change happens even faster.
My first visit to India was in 1992. I was 21 years old and delighted with the overtaking of the sense organs. The smell of incense was everywhere, mixed with the smells of sweet, warm milk (chai) boiling and the smells of Indian spices and aromatic oils. The colors of the saris, the bindis on the third eye, the colorful bangles (bracelets), the bright-colored temples and sculptures of gods, and even some of the painted houses all mixed with palm trees, dust, smoky buses and unmaintained buildings. The smells and visions were infused with sounds of chants, of horns blowing, the man selling brooms or chai calling in a melodic voice to announce his passing by, birds chipping away, people coughing up red spit, and loud Bollywood music.
The essence of India has not changed much throughout my visits in the past 22 years, yet there are still many changes on the surface that are very much felt. Areas that were virgin are now built, places that were unknown have roaming tourists demanding comforts and service, sweet people have learned to haggle tourists, walkable streets have become huge traffic jams, and palm trees have been replaced by four-story buildings. Most travelers that have been coming here for a while talk in sweet memories about the old days.
Memories have a tendency to sweeten over time. We remember the beautiful girl who was our first kiss as the goddess of all times or the first time we tasted a chai or stepped barefoot into a temple where a wrinkled man wearing a white loin cloth around his waist was chanting and moving about a fire lamp. We forget the hassle it took to get to the temple or the bad breath the girl had or that after that kiss she broke our heart or that our sandals were stolen outside the temple. Even when we remember the stolen sandals, it becomes a funny story. Do you remember how you felt at the moment? Maybe not so happy.
What really changes beyond all these external facts is simply us. Our essence may be constant, but this essence is not the one carrying stories around. It is not the essence that has expectations; rather, our mind is the one wishing things to be as it wants them to be. When we recognize the patterns of the mind and learn that we have the power to overcome this, we can come to a space of acceptance of what IS, both as it appears externally and how it translates internally.
I was in Goa when it was an Israeli trance party all over, and I was there also when most of my friends were practicing Ashtanga with Rolf and Marci. This year I stayed in a bubble – a retreat center called Ashiyana – a small paradise on earth. As I left it I was craving Villa Sumaya on Lake Atitlan – another paradise on earth. Instead I landed in Mysore –Ashtanga land.
I see the coconut stand is still here; it just has better protection form the sun. The shala I practice in has moved, but just down the road. Over the years I have had a few different teachers here. I love them all and always will, even if I no longer practice with them.
Flowing with change is simply the act of taking the right action or no action at the specific moment. Change is always happening, and all we can do is be present with it. This way we flow with it, and the change will not disturb us.
A video I posted about dealing with change is here:
I was practicing Ashtanga third series as rain started coming down. I modified my practice, accepting that the change in the weather had changed my abilities. I still practiced. It looked sloppier than usual, but I was breathing; I was moving, I was flowing with change.
How do you deal with change? Do you have any good advice to share with us? Please leave it in the comments below.
You can see experts from my practice that day – flowing with change – Ashtanga Third Series – in this video.