The task of modern life is the task of all of life, past and future; to adapt and grow with our surroundings and with our changing selves. This is the path of evolution. Not only are we talking about the Big Bang and expansion of the universe to the point of mitochondrion within cells and the development of animal and human life. We are talking about change within ourselves, approaching the seasons of our lives and adapting and growing with them. We establish a feeling of certainty, we know what to expect and we become expert at survival, and sometimes dominance, in one aspect of life. But then something changes in our environment or within ourselves and we are forced to adapt. Take the development of a child, for example.
An unborn child spends forty weeks growing and changing within the warmth and safety of its mother’s womb. Every day it changes in a multiplicity of ways, moving rapidly from zygote to embryo to foetus to baby. It grows comfortable, it develops the habit of feeding through the placenta, the umbilical chord is the tangible connection to its source of life. And then the environment suddenly and drastically changes.
Their home, their place of protection and certainty begins to disintegrate around them. They move down the birth canal towards uncertainty. Every moment feels like death. Their world will never be the same again. They have no idea what is to follow. It feels like the end. And then they emerge, crying, into the dry air and bright lights of the moment of their birth.
While those around them celebrate a new life, the new born child has just experienced the death of all that they have ever known. If we could interview them and ask them how they feel about being born, they’d probably tell a very different story to those that are celebrating their safe arrival. Yet they had no choice, a new season has begun. And so it is with us.
Whether making the transition from adolescence to adulthood, changing jobs, committing to a relationship, becoming a parent or pushing for a promotion we are endlessly adapting and redefining our relationship with the world in which we live. To ignore it is merely to prolong our long-term discomfort. We form habits and patterns of behaviour that allowed us to survive within our old paradigm. But this is only ‘survival’. Life has moved on but we have not moved with it. Our relationships and our work inevitably suffer. Sometimes we live with an unspoken dread of our own lives.
Our consciousness often suppresses it but the sensation feels like an emptiness, a sinking feeling in our stomach. Or it can feel like a time-bomb in our chest. Hypertension. Shallow breathing. Endless cyclical thoughts. The ability to think only of our past and future. Regret and fear. Distracted in this moment.
How can we adapt to our present reality when our mind and our body are whirring like this? How can we know what changes to make in our lives when we don’t even know how we are feeling in this moment, what our thoughts and opinions are?
The task of growth and change firstly requires our becoming present to what is. Only then can we see the exciting challenges that beckon us onward.
Patrick Boland, April 2016.
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