Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paths of change


 Paths of Change

Many people come to work with me because they feel stuck.
Something isn’t working in their professional or personal life. They want to make a change – understand their problem and do something different.
Carl Jung suggests that this urge to change happens when we feel trapped. We find ourselves thinking the same old way, we are living the same pattern and we want to shift.  It’s painful or it’s boring, or we aren’t getting the results we want.We may even begin to see negative things happening, and fear that if we resist changing, there will be consequences.
An alternative scenario is when we feel pulled; almost beyond conscious will, towards something unknown, something larger, even something potentially frightening.It isn't that we deliberately see that it's time to make a change, but we can't help ourselves from veering in this direction. Our fantasies and imaginings, our dreams and hopes impel us towards a promised new chapter in our life.
Either impetus takes us onto the path of change. We choose it – or we are pushed onto the road by something-larger-than-we know.
Now there are two ways to live into this momentum.
The most common way is to begin to make lists, create steps, figure out the external things we can do.
We think about a class we can take, a set of eight principles to live by, three habits to form that will make us healthier or more energetic, or revive our commitments.
Maybe we realize we need to move, or change jobs or professions. Some people leave partners or make decisions to commit to someone. There are those who take a step towards being a parent, or let go of that volunteer commitment that isn't right. We hear a call and we find the courage to say yes.
These external changes mirror the internal shifts in our psyche. It takes resolve and passion to do something significantly different – go back to school, lose weight, start a spiritual practice, go somewhere new and begin a life over.
The Spirit honors our risk-taking, and our willingness to embody change in our lives. The outer movement happens, and we begin anew. Our lives are transformed. This energy changes us, and changes the world.
But sometimes it doesn’t work that way.
We can’t move – or that isn’t the right thing to do. We have profound commitments to a geography, a person, a piece of work. We are not able to make an external change. We live with chronic illness, or the illness of someone we love. We care for small children. Our finances are precarious. We have found a calling to a work that is still lively.
And yet we feel endlessly stuck, maybe verging on hopeless. There is some pull towards growth, newness, even as outer things must stay the same. We need to be different, yet our daily life cannot change very much. What do we do then?
Jung offers an essential insight. He counsels us to then look within to build up and out from where we are. The work is quite different from the first path, and may feel slower. We tend to our perspective and the attitude our ego has towards life and seek to expand it.We listen to our dreams and our images. We wander a bit. This is the place where many seek a companion to help them pay attention.What is being asked? What is breaking open?
On this path of change,  we remain physically rooted, and  say yes to the mystery and movement of our inner life.  In that process there can be a re-birth; we are no longer the same person.
This journey, which is equally arduous and requires no little amount of courage, brings shifts in the external world as well.  As we begin to see from another perspective, our outer landscape has a new texture. We awaken to a fresh song. As we are transformed, so is the world in which we live.
Two kinds of change. Different opportunities to hear a call and respond.
Neither kind of change is superior. Neither is easy. We are often required by life to go down one path when we might prefer the other.
I find in my clients, and in myself, that stuck places invite both kinds of change. When we have a choice, some of our most important work is figuring out which path to follow.
May you find clarity and wisdom for the choices you are making on your journey.