The Sublime Breath    
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On changes we do not seek



We all face uncertainty and risk in varying degrees. A job that seems secure today may be in jeopardy in coming years. A relationship that has brought joy in the past can sour or decay. As painful as these things are, we should remember they are part of what we can expect in life. Nothing is static, and ultimately not one of us is entitled to absolute stability.

How do we mindfully face these risk and, indeed, gain strength from them? Some changes, such as tragic family deaths or hostile attacks, are naturally worrisome. But short of these extremes, most risks can be viewed as opportunities.

The first step in making the most of unwanted changes is to accept life's impermanence. It is both counterproductive and a waste of time to deny the possibilities of risk or change. If you find yourself saying, "No, this can't be happening," recognize that you have had a moment of fear and that momentary fear has led you to an unrealistic conclusion. Take a calm breath and say, "Yes, this is the situation I find myself facing." You don't have to like it or agree with it, but the sooner you recognize it the sooner you can deal with it effectively.

Then take another breath. And another one. By turning your awareness to your breath you will connect with the one thing that will always be present in your life. From the moment we are born to the moment we die, our breath is our closest ally and our most important and consistent power. Whenever and where ever you feel a moment of stress, return to the breath and be reminded of its sustaining power.

Finally, remember that changes usually involve a special kind of cause and effect relationship. When one aspect of life changes it immediately has transforming effects on other aspects. Indeed, the change or end of one thing typically is the simultaneously the alteration or beginning of another. Consuming a healthy meal simultaneously ends hunger and creates nutritional fulfillment. It is not doing one or the other, but doing both at the same time. Think of a sliding door that covers only half a closet at a time. When you move the door to the right, the left immediately opens. In other words, one side is opened by the very act of closing the other.

Because undesirable changes do close off the sections we prefer, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that openings are occurring elsewhere. The loss of a job means that you will have more time on your hands. A lost relationship provides guidance about whom might be more compatible in the future. It is wholesome and healing to honor what we have lost by mourning its passing. But when that mourning continues unabated and smothers the ability to see new possibilities, it ceases to serve us. There is a big difference between honoring an irretrievable past and shackling your mind and actions to it.

So there are three steps that are always at our disposal for dealing with unwanted change. First, we can recognize that risk and change are part of the impermanence we all experience. We can always calm ourselves with gentle, rhythmic breathing. Finally, there is the very likely possibility of opportunity being embedded in the loss or disruption.

A changed situation will find itself modified in the course of time. You deserve that to be a change for the better.

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