I recently discovered another “cherished illusion,” as Jim Finley calls them, namely that I grow and change through my own initiative and on my own schedule. This is simply not true. We’re not so different from the rest of creation. We can no more decide to enter a new phase of life before we’re ready than a tree can decide to drop its leaves in spring.
If a six-year-old informed us that she was going to learn to drive or do calculus or carry a thirty-pound rock, we wouldn’t expect it to happen. Yet when we become adults, we think that we should be able to will ourselves to be whoever we want however and whenever we wish.
Just as shorter days mean less sunlight and therefore less green chlorophyll to hide the stunning reds and yellows always present but not visible in the trees’ leaves, we change in response to events in our lives, most of which are beyond our control. The big difference between us and the trees is that we often have different plans. Maybe we want to be green all the time or, come August, are impatient to display our more showy selves.
Though what’s happening doesn’t originate with us, we can choose whether to resist or participate. If you’re like me, there’s a fair amount of push back going on. At the heart of my resistance is a lack of trust in the cosmic becoming in which we all play a part.
Let’s be clear, there are a lot of reasons to mistrust: black holes, dying starts, war, famine. But let’s be equally clear that my cosmic plan doesn’t extend much past dinner, so just maybe the Creator of the universe has something going on that I don’t fully understand, something bigger than me and my preferences, and maybe, in ways we can live but not grasp, it is a “plan for [our] welfare, not for woe” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This transformation is happening, but it’s not being done to us. It is coming into being with, in, and through us. “The world becomes new, if one does not stand in the way,” my friend Bardwell says. Let’s practice not standing in the way.
2 thoughts on “Transformation Happens”
Practicing. Practicing. Practicing. “On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur, l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” Thank you.
A few thoughts in response to your thoughtful essay.
Jeremiah’s quote points to a universe that is benevolent rather than indifferent or capricious. For me, this is definitive of the faith that distinguishes atheism and theism.
Practicing “not standing in the way” seems tantamount to cultivating the recognition and acceptance of our transient, mortal circumstance. We have been programmed to live in a state of denial with respect to this it seems. As the Buddhists say, spiritual practice is akin to swimming upstream.
Interesting that you use the image of a tree dropping a leaf to illustrate the unpredictable path of human growth and change. Sunim has used this same image as a metaphor for grace, in a Buddhist context. He has talked about how though one may exert oneself diligently in spiritual practice, the flowering of such practice is a matter of “grace”. One patiently, persistently tills the ground of the mind, awaiting the appearance of insight, wisdom, realizations that are beyond our control to conjure and are essentially a gift.