Facing the Fear of Change-- & Opening to Life!

For most of my adult life, personally and professionally, I’ve been exploring the phenomenon of change. As long as we live in a body on this planet we will be subject to the process of change-- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a number of us know from the runaway hormones of our teenage days, change that is unconscious, that takes us over, is tumultuous and makes us feel out of control. That kind of change leaves its imprint for many people in a desire to control all change, even to hold back from the inner promptings that try to tell us when we’ve outgrown a particular path and need to move on in a new direction.

Many of the people I’ve worked with as a career and life coach contacted me saying that they’d been feeling for some time that they needed to make a change in their jobs and the way they live. Some had had significant dreams, body signals (stress, pain, illness), and other signs (e.g., burnout at work) that the way things were was no longer purposeful for them. However, they resisted change because they were afraid of loss (of a job, a relationship, control) and the unknown.

Ram Dass-- a visionary explorer of change, loss, and re-emergence into authentic being-- writes in his book about awareness of change through aging, Still Here, that “without remaining open to change, we cannot remain open to life.” By diving into the deepest fears of many people in western cultures-- those of aging and dying-- he also opens ways for us to release our fears of moving out of old, constrictive patterns that tie us to ways of working, relating, and living that throttle our energy and diminish our well-being. As he relates about himself, being “thrown out of Harvard took away the secure professor role from my Ego . . . My creativity was released when the identity of Harvard professor was ripped away.”

A simple thing you can learn to do when you are on the brink of change, or in the midst of it, and struggling with your fears and your Gremlin (the part of you that doesn’t want you to change), is, as Ram Dass suggests, to “practice moment-to-moment Awareness by learning to do one thing at a time.” Taking a slow breath in that expands your entire rib cage and then letting it out allows you to savor being in the present moment. This experience opens your parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes your mind, your digestion, your breathing, and creates a calming center from which action that feels right to you can emerge.

Gradually, as you cultivate your awareness of just being in the moment, you realize that each action you take-- beginning with your breath-- simply leads you into the person you truly are. Conscious change begins to happen more effortlessly with less need to hang on to habitual ways of being that drain your energy. As your actions align with your authentic self, you move past your fears and your Gremlin with greater confidence into change that is positive and that matters to you.