On Change and The Acceptance Thereof

Hello, internet people!

As some of you well know, I begun dabbling in Buddhism last semester. My dabbling has since expanded to an open armed embrace as I have learned more and more that I like about the Buddha and his teachings. One of the central ideas of Buddhism is the idea that “dukkha” (translated loosely as suffering) is caused by our tendency to cling to things as they are. The trouble with this, of course, is that things are in a constant state of flux–nothing is permanent. Nothing. Therefore, clinging to the way something is (say, the fact that my gas tank is full) only causes suffering when that state of being eventually, inevitably changes (my gas tank slowly makes its way towards empty).

But I’m not here to give you a lesson on Buddhism. Not really. I’m here to talk about my personal experience today as I was once again confronted with the reality of this principal. I am a creature of routine, of habit. As such, I go forth every Tuesday and Thursday to attend yoga classes here on campus and every Tuesday and Thursday I expect things to go roughly the same. I will walk (or drive, if it’s cold) to the fitness center. I will wait a few minutes for the pilates folk to clear out. I will spread my mat and sit there patiently waiting for our instructor to come out and tell us to begin in easy seated position.

Today, that is not what happened. I walked. I sat. And then some woman I had never seen before started talking to us through the mic. Some NEW WOMAN, without explanation, was leading our yoga class.

Okay. Impermanence. Fine. Except that I could feel myself being taken out of my practice by the mere presence and difference of this new instructor. It wasn’t that she wasn’t good–she was perfectly acceptable as a yoga instructor. But she wasn’t MY yoga instructor and she didn’t do things the way I’d gotten used to. All through practice, I could find myself focusing on her movements, the way she walked around as she instructed, where our other instructor had stood still.

When we got to the balance section, I couldn’t keep myself still. I usually have pretty tolerable balance, as long as I don’t stretch myself, so I was a little confused at first. And then it hit me. I had been put off balance, LITERALLY off balance, by a small change. I was experiencing dukkha because the reality I had been clinging to (that my instructor would be the same every Tuesday and Thursday) had changed.

And that, my friends, is just one of the beautiful things about exploring the teachings of the Buddha. Something so small, something I might never have noticed in myself, has suddenly become a chance to take a step back, assess myself, and try to let go to some of my obsessive craving for routine and sameness.

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