Don't Fear the Change, Letting Go of the Attachment of How Things Are


ANAKIN: I want to stay with you. I don't want things to change.

SHMI: You can't stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting. Listen to your feelings; Annie, you know what's right.

– From Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace by George Lucas


There is an aphorism that the only constant in the universe is change. Things are always in motion, and nothing truly stands still for very long. Often change is met with resistance, a feeling that things are alright as they are, and that change will be disruptive, or upsetting. Sometimes change is disruptive or upsetting, but at the same time such changes may actually be necessary. One way or the other, change is inevitable.

Resistance to change is often rooted in fear. We can know how things are, but change draws us into the territory of the unknown. When we allow ourselves to be lead by fear, the end result is always suffering. It is much better to be able to let go of our attachment to how things are, and accept that all things, even things and situations we enjoy will always transition to something else. When we are in a situation we deem to be good, an instinct might be to grip onto it tightly, to hold onto it so that we will always have these good feelings associated with it.

One thing that can be said about the present that cannot be said about the future, is that it is known. Sometimes we can intuit what is to come, or even stride for positive change, but the future, even the next infinitesimal moment after this one has the potential to surprise us, and to catch us unaware. It is the fear of what may be that can cause a being to hold on to how the way things are. People can find comfort in the familiar, even when the status quo is rife with trouble, injustice and oppression as it is today, but the change that comes from dismantling these structures can make those with an attachment to how things are very uncomfortable, even if these would be changes for the better, fear of the unknown can cause someone to dig in their heels and resist the change, and in some cases even result in a regressive attitude of wanting things as they once were.

While nostalgia can be a powerful filter through which to view the past, we must come to the realization that we cannot live there. Fond memories of how things were, and how much we enjoyed it are clouded by our human biases. When we remember the past fondly, we will find that the memories are selective, allowing our minds to dwell on that which we find enjoyable, and often not visiting the more unpleasant elements. The same can be said when we observe how things are in the present. We may focus on the things that are pleasing to us, while avoiding a long gaze at those things that necessitate change.

Letting go of our fear of change begins with the acceptance that change is going to happen. We must be mindful that we cannot stop the change, but we do not have to be passive about it. Once we let go of our attachment to how things are, we can then be an active participant in the change, moving forward and helping direct the shape of things to come. Without such attachment, we are free to chart a new course in our lives and within our sphere of influence. An attitude of acceptance of change will liberate our power to be a positive force for change in the world. We can realize that we do not have to remain how we are, but we can set to the hard work of improving ourselves, and in so doing improving the environment for those around us. By embracing the change, we can become the change.

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