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One row on holiday can ruin everything: Why we resist change and how to flow with it

Living here and now, living mindfully, changes our perspective on change

My friend was away on a long weekend with her husband. One blissful sun-drenched day was followed by an argumentative morning and suddenly it felt like this expensive holiday was ruined – albeit momentarily. It’s an all too familiar feeling, even when I look back at my own relationships – one awful day that is so overpowering it cancels out any happy moments.

This made me wonder about the lack of permanence in life and simultaneously the permanence of change, echoing the Greek philosopher Heraclitus – ‘The only constant in life is change’. I was also reading about the rate of change of the rate of change, the RoCoRoc, in a book called Practical Zen, co-authored by my friend Sarah Bladen, a rate that is apparently doubling every ten years. If Dukha (Sanskrit for sorrow and unhappiness) arises from a person’s failure to accept the lack of permanent self and change, as Alan Watts said, then Sukha (happiness and contentment) surely comes from realising and accepting change.

So how do we ride the waves of change? Can we glide through the heart-aching lows as well as we rise in the soaring highs? It is only memory of the past and anxiety of the future that creates unhappiness in the now, that makes us resist change, but through awareness of the present, through being here and now, through being mindful, we start realising that the present moment need not be attached to the past or the future, that one good day is not annulled by one bad day. We realise that all these changes work in harmony, create symphony and maintain balance.

Mindfulness is living with awareness, and when we live with this
awareness, we flow with change. Living mindfully is living in this moment with
an acceptance of the past and openness to the future, but an awareness that
this moment, here and now, does not need to rely on either the past or the
future. This does not mean that there is no pain and that we should never dip
into memories or have any worries about the future, but realising that all these
things are necessary ingredients in the symphony of life allows us to find some
mystery and marvel in that thing called change.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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