A Vital Part of Aliveness

Excerpt from "Making Major Life Changes," by Phillip Moffitt:

Before committing to a major life change, you may want to ask yourself if it is truly needed. Is your desire for the new a way to avoid some inner work in the unfolding of your own maturity as a human being? Are you trying to avoid a necessary ego surrender of your wanting mind? Is what you think you need to be happy just an old idea that you've outgrown or was it simply unreal all along? Instead of trying to get more of something—money or attention, for instance—would you better serve yourself by practicing letting loose of your attachment to having life be a certain way?

Each person has to go through this agonizing, self-doubting process as part of a major change. These hard questions are most alive when asked in the context of the spirit and allow a deeper sense of meaning to emerge.

For sure, trying to get life arranged just as you want it never works. Looking back on my own life, it sometimes seems that it mattered less whether or not I made a certain change than that I grounded myself in this process of self-examination. Somehow it was coming into my full range of feelings that was the most important step toward continuing vitality in my life. Needless to say, the times I have failed to do this grounding in authenticity I paid the consequences.

Without this deeper sense of meaning, life is dull at best and most often filled with suffering. Usually, it is not life's difficulties that cause the most suffering, but rather the lack of being connected to self, to others, and to life as a whole. Separation from your natural enthusiasm dampens or kills your spirit. Therefore, the question in contemplating change is always: Are you moving more fully into your essence, your most authentic self?

Photo: David Ploskonka, October 12, 2014

Photo: David Ploskonka, October 12, 2014

Once you commit to making a major life change, be prepared to embrace darkness as part of that change. Just as the Earth uses the short winter light for renewal, so in moving through change your own psyche may well need to go into an inner darkness. In the darkness that which has been ignored or denied—be it unsettling feelings, difficult events from the past and present, or ambivalence about yourself—will be given time to decay and be renewed. This little death of the psyche mirrors your ultimate physical death. Experiencing this kind of psychic death is a vital part of aliveness. It is scary business surrendering to death before rebirth, which is why tribal cultures have rituals to help them cope with the anxiety of seeing the days become shorter and trusting that another spring will come. This concern was so great in some cultures they performed rituals for the setting sun each day to ensure its return the next morning.

Do not imagine that you are that much different in modern life. Provide yourself with ritual around your change. Make it a sacred act. Create reminders of what you are doing and symbols that are visible to you. Use literature for inspiration. Have friends and professionals as both witnesses and support group. Avoid judging yourself by whether or not you succeed in making a change, and never put yourself in the position of giving others the power to judge you on such a basis. Let the act of changing be the reward, and do not count on the outcome, for it may well be far different than you ever imagined. All these steps represent an honoring of yourself, a surrendering of your ego that thinks it is supposed to be in charge. They also honor the mystery of life, for no one ever knows the full consequences of an action.

One of the beautiful things about the early twilight at this time of year, as it fades into the dark of the long nights, is that you can just surrender yourself to it. Allow the twilight to remind you that it is a time of consideration and renewal. Know full well that in this world the darkness and the light are one. There is no new dawn without the night; their seeming separateness disguises a unity that reflects the unity of life, an unfathomable dance of opposites.

This paradox is the very essence of what it is to be alive—joy and pain, sickness and health, light and dark, wonder and fear.
Photo: David Ploskonka, October 12, 2014

Photo: David Ploskonka, October 12, 2014

As you reflect and make decisions about your future, never forget that the you who embarks on any life change will not be the person to reap its benefits or woes when the process is complete. Neither are you the person who made decisions in the past.

You are only connected to each by memory, by the consequences of cause and effect, and by the degree to which you embrace your life by owning your intentions. You are only here now, in this moment as the light fades, the night settles. Be alive to this moment. It is all you have, the only time when thought and action can occur for the benefit of yourself and those you love.

May your inner and outer life be of balance and harmony. May the darkness be your light. May your life be peaceful, but not to the point of lethargy. May the season's ending be a new beginning.

Read the entire essay...

See also Moffitt, P. (2012). Emotional chaos to clarity: How to live more skillfully, make better decisions, and find purpose in life. New York: Hudson Street Press. (Indie Bound, library)