One of my biggest struggles in life is that I am resistant to change. To counteract this tendency, I began looking for small ways to change up different patterns in my life to help me learn to accept changes gradually. I started small – for example, I changed the pattern for brushing my teeth. As a right-handed person, I tried to do more tasks with my left hand. As I changed up each minor part of the routine, I would talk to myself out loud, telling myself that I am altering a pattern in order to help me learn to accept change. The talking out loud is important – it kept the thought “I want to learn to accept change” in the forefront of my mind.
Why put so much effort into learning to accept change? Well, change is the one thing we can always count on. The world, our lives, everything is changing around us – whether we like it or not! Might as well learn to go with the flow.
I have done aikido for a number of years. Recently, I helped a student prepare for a sandan demo. I hadn’t done the katas for it in a number of years. While working with him, I was able to see the techniques in a completely different way. I wanted to help my student so that he could see it from what I know now, not what I knew then.
What if I had not been open to change? What if I had continued to look at the techniques from the way I learned them 30 years ago. I would have missed out on seeing the flow of these movements that I couldn’t understand at that earlier point in my training, and would not have been able to teach the student any better now than I would have back then.
If you really look at the idea of change, think about what a tremendous role change has played in your own life. Look at your job, hobbies, family relationships, friendships, etc. How are these things different from the way they were 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, or longer? Are you still doing everything the same way you did back then? Are your thought patterns different? As a result of these changes, have you grown and developed as a person?
In my life, and my aikido, I am constantly looking for ways to change. If something is helpful, I may adopt the changes as permanent and try to make them habits. As a teacher, I want to constantly change and improve the way I teach so that my students can grasp concepts and ideas much more quickly than I did at their level. With each change, I try to become a little bit better.
Currently, I have been working on changing my behavior and reactions while driving. My job required me to spend a lot of time in the car. While behind the wheel, I began to notice certain things about myself. In particular, I became aware of my tendency to get irritated with the other drivers. This is a common issue, one that many people struggle with. However, I wanted to reduce stress from driving and replace it with a more positive feeling.
The three-step process I use is as follows:
- Recognize the thought (“That $*&%$* just cut me off! I’m angry!)
- Reflect on it (“Why did they cut me off? Are they in a hurry? Could they be having a bad day? Was it an accident? Maybe they just didn’t see me here”)
- Replace the negative thought with a positive one. This will be different for everyone; you have to come up with something that works for you. Here’s what I used:
“I am grateful for aikido and the development it has given me. I am grateful for the Spiritual Gravity blog and the ability to share my thoughts with others”
I do think that starting with “I am grateful for…” is important. Gratitude is powerful and, if practiced every day, will improve our overall mental health and increase our enjoyment of life.