Home Commentary The Way I See It: Permission to Change

The Way I See It: Permission to Change

Spring in Vermont brings with it the most obvious and outrageous changes, yet it starts off slow and subtle and requires the utmost patience. 

For me, here in Vermont, it begins with the tiniest bit (more) sunlight reaching the bathroom from the kitchen window in the east, then waking to robins singing on the soggy lawn and finally progresses boisterously to candy-colored crocuses popping through cool earth. In the early mornings wild geese fly over the house, and then finally, the mud has hardened enough to pull my car all the way into the driveway. 

In his book “To Bless the Space Between Us,” Celtic author John O’Donohue writes: “The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival. … Change arrives in nature when time has ripened. There are no jagged transitions or crude discontinuities.” 

Despite this poetic eloquence, we humans have a very hard time with change. Even though the seasons teach us to welcome and embrace this flow, it can stir up deep primordial fears and doubts to embrace a change and to take leaps into new rhythms and territories. Even the ‘wanting’ to change can cause us to feel shame. It is vulnerable to name and claim what we want and to truly go after it. Sometimes a deeply held identity has to fall away if we are to embrace and become the next version of ourselves. 

Learning when it’s time for a big (or small) life change requires one thing above all else — deep listening. If we are used to ignoring or pushing down our dreams and desires, deep listening can take practice. It also requires us to trust ourselves and to believe what we hear calling out to us from our own inner depths. Sometimes we ‘hear the call’ for change when the seasons are changing as we sense the radical changes that are already brewing in nature. Something inside of us wants to align with that flow. 

I often marvel at the Canada geese that somehow know the exact migration route to take at just the right moment. Do they too sense the ‘inner call’ that it’s time to travel and fly north with the spring? Can we as humans listen deeply and sense from within when it’s time for us to migrate — perhaps to a different location, a new career, or a new way of life? 

It can be helpful at a time of change to call together a circle of trusted friends who will hold you, support you, and encourage you to take risks and venture into the unknown. It might also be helpful to know who the naysayers are and avoid them at all costs, at least until you have made up your own mind and leapt across the chasm. Nothing like a rowdy crowd of ‘dream smashers’ to ruin your party. 

So on a practical level, how do we handle BIG change and what helps the most when we hear the call from within to ‘take that leap’, ‘make that move,’ or try something new? Although it is easier said than done, here is what I suggest: 

Practice listening when the stakes are low. Learn how to honor yourself with the simple day-to-day choices and decisions. Then, when it’s time for a sea change, you will be practiced with change and versed in the language of your unique soul. 

Have patience. Change will come when things have ripened (as in the O’Donohue quote above). No need to rush change. Allow change to happen in its own time. Just like waking up to spring in full glory, so too will things gel and come together when the timing is precisely right. 

Honor all the big feelings that come with change: Fear, doubt, shame, and grief are all feelings that are a normal part of the transition process. Make space for excitement, joy, and adventure as well. 

As winter quietly and boldly passes the torch to spring, what is bubbling up in your heart? What is calling out to you like the wild geese calling in the morning over the hills? Listen inward with keen attention. Then, take the leap when you are ready.