Parinamavada: this is apparently a deeply complex theory (according to Wikipedia), but I learned it as a very straightforward concept: the only constant in life is change. With a nod to a much deeper philosophical discussion, I’m going to keep it simple for the sake of this blog and stick to my original interpretation.
To accept change is to welcome our natural state of being, and yet our tendency is to rail against change. Stability and routine give us an anchor. We know what to expect, and that feeling of the known gives us comfort. We know we will wake up in the morning, go about our routine, work, eat dinner, zone out to phone or Facebook or TV, then do it all over again the next day. The problem is, in that sense of “the known,” there is only illusion, and if we cling to what is not real, the root cause of suffering emerges. By trying to hold on to an imaginary sense of stability, we slowly suffocate ourselves.
And what happens when the natural state of change hits with a sudden impact? When the diagnosis comes, the car accident happens, when we endure the death of a loved one. Often we feel victimized, wondering how this could have happened in a life so carefully managed. We ruminate, feel undeserving and complain about the sudden shifts in our lives when we have been knocked off the straight and narrow. We suffer.
What if we approach change differently? What if we view life through the lens of parinamavada, and we open our hearts to change? In essence, what if we embrace life as it arises?
If you stop to consider, change surrounds us without and within. Day turns into night. Summer turns into fall. A full moon changes to a new moon. We age. Our friends come and go. Our bodies age and begin to change: our eyesight weakens, our hair changes color, and laugh lines appear around our mouths and eyes. Even on the most micro level, change is happening every second. Our inhales and exhales produce a gas exchange that is essential to life. We are able to witness change in our very nature just by observing our thoughts and the speed with which we jump from one idea to the next.
Speaking of minds, one of the most exciting scientific advances to come out in the last fifteen years is the proof of neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to modify and advance, the brain’s ability to change. Scientists say that neurons that fire together, wire together. As we become aware of our subconscious thought patterns that may not be serving us, we can release those thoughts, literally deprogramming the brain. From that pruning, space opens for firing new thoughts, creating new networks, and forming new beliefs, supporting us in our highest states of self. How powerful and hopeful!
Consider the negative emotions you are plagued by, those little voices in your head that have followed you for years. Unworthiness, sadness, anger, jealousy, insecurity, scarcity. Imagine severing the ties that bind you to those feelings and the actions that follow those base-level emotions. Imagine replacing those feeling with joy, love, worthiness, confidence, happiness, hope, abundance. This fascinating find is based on the fundamental truth that at our very nature, change and creation is our natural state of being.
If you are interested in learning more about this emerging field of science, check out ‘Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom’ by Rick Hanson; any of the work from Dr. Joe Dispenza; and ‘Finding Your Lighthouse, a Leadership Guide to Navigating Change’ by my good friend Jenean Merkel Perelstein.
To change is to create a new reality, and to create is to be in unity with the universal field, the supreme consciousness, the Divine. Becoming skillful at welcoming change into your life, to the point that you become the initiator of change, is to move closer to that state of unity.
A consistent yoga practice is a wonderful laboratory for change. Through yoga, we begin to identify with change, and we are allowed to approach it, interact with it, and examine ourselves through it. We encounter change in every aspect of our practice. When we practice pranayama, or breathwork, we are changing our physiological state with the exchange of gases in the inhale and exhale, creating a new state of being that is more relaxed and less anxious. Deep breathing has an array of benefits with real change, including reduced toxicity in the body, improved digestion, reduced inflammation, improved concentration and cognition, and much more.
In asana practice, we move and stretch our bodies, and we practice change in every breath. Change is evident when we awaken certain muscles, when we transition from one posture to the next, when we strengthen one side while lengthening another, when we connect our breath to movement in a vinyasa practice, when we make micro shifts to bring ourselves into alignment, when we feel spacious and open, and when we awaken energy centers along the spine. Change is also present in the sense of wellbeing and lightness sensed at the end of practice. We step off the mat a different person than stepped on, and we can take that higher state of energy cultivated through our practice into the world.
Finally, when we sit in meditation, we are practicing conscious change. Meditation invites us to withdraw and observe our thoughts, becoming aware of unconscious feelings and emotions that motivate behaviors. When we shine light on these patterns, we begin to initiate change. Mediation is a gift, an opportunity to discover where we are stuck in an old way of being that does not support us in fulfilling our purpose in life, our dharma. Meditation moves us into the alpha brainwave state, and from there, we can reprogram our minds and shift our state of being. It is change on the most foundational level with the opportunity for the most incredible impact. It is change of ourselves. It is evolution.
And so, when I contemplate change, I think of it with much excitement. I welcome it with a trust in a Divine plan and Divine timing, and I try to get out of my own way. Change is life, and life is so much better lived riding with the wave than fighting the current.
Parinamavada. Life’s only constant. And such a blessing that is.
Shannon Reeder, RYT, 500 Hours
I am a 500 hour certified yoga teacher in Ambergris Caye, Belize. If you find yourself on the island, please join me for weekly classes! Our regular schedule can be found at www.sanpedroyoga.com. Classes are held in outdoor locations surrounded by natural beauty throughout the island, inviting you to connect with nature and deepen awareness of mind, body, and spirit.