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Who moved the cheese?

How to contend with the changes we make and the calamity it leaves behind

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Everyone has a moment, or moments in their lives, where they decide to make a conscious and important change for themselves. And over the past 18 years practicing Ayurveda, I have noticed that the actual process of making change is not the hardest thing patients go through when they embark upon a new lifestyle, diet or paradigm. The most difficult thing has always been how to contend with those new changes with respect to the other parts of their lives, like their jobs, their relationships and even how they see themselves.

Some examples of these changes are becoming dairy-free, vegan or a meat eater, leaving or entering a relationship, working from home or going back to the office, taking up or quitting a sport, choosing to be sober or not, losing or gaining religion, moving or staying, prioritizing work or family, and even my favorite: choosing when to take care of yourself first or not.

Those changes not only impact who we are and our relationships with others, but the changes require a systemic perspective shift on what we see as importance and priority in our lives. Most of the time, the changes we make are simple but what we leave in our wake is a calamity of destruction; destruction of all the things that no longer serve us. Someone who choses to be sober, may lose addict friends only to open doors to new relationships. A person, who loses their religion, may leave behind the dogma in order to develop a stronger relationship with their God. Or partners, who choose to take care of themselves first, may take a step back to see what is healthy or not healthy in a relationship.

All of these changes can bring up fear because once we “move the cheese”, the entire dynamic of the complex infrastructure of our lives changes. If we pull out one single thread from a garment, we must be willing to accept that it may disrupt the integrity of the entire fabric. Often, I find that family and close friends may have a hard time with the changes they see with a person, and that opens up many other fears around love and acceptance. It is often one small change that shows us what parts of our lives require attention for growth. There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills.”

So if you find yourself faced with wanting to build a windmill, I suggest these three steps to help you begin your path toward how to contend with the changes you want, yet fear:

  1. Acceptance. This one is probably the hardest because we, as humans, don’t like being out of control. Yet in reality, control is simply an illusion we’ve created to assure ourselves that we did everything right. If we take the first step toward being healthier, then our only job is to allow the process to take its course, as difficult as it may be. Tibetan Buddhist, Pema Chodron said, “Suffering usually relates to wanting something different from the way they really are.”
  2. Act. This may seem opposite from acceptance, but they go hand in hand. When we accept, we accept the outcome of our actions but we still have to act, just without attachment. Continue your path of growth, no matter how difficult. Ayurveda emphasizes the value of routines of the body and mind, so the spirit can shine through. “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy on not fighting the old, but on building the new”, ~ Socrates
  3. Surrender. Often people mistake this as the same as acceptance, but it means to offer up all the judgment and fear to trust your life’s path. One of my favorite quotes I recite to myself whenever something is going wrong is “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor”. Looking back on your life, you will see that everything, every person and every experience has brought you to where you are. Your only choice is will you surrender to it or fight it?

I will leave you with this final quote by Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu, which even after thousands of years, applies today. “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

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