Jump Rope, Jacks and Stickball

(First posted July 27th, 2012)
The great anthropologist Angeles Arrien reminds us that we Westerners conceptually frame, and experience change as loss. She used an example that most Americans could relate to. It went something to the effect: A friend asked another “I hear your

relationship is changing?” The other, in a concerned voice, responded “Oh my God! What have you heard?” Those of us in her workshop laughed in recognition of our pattern.

I love what Dr. Arrien gives us. Her work has contributed to me professionally and personally. I no longer agree with the inferences I once drew from my understandings of Westerners linking change with loss. I once believed I needed to break the connection of change with loss. That I needed, instead, to understand the reality that change is constant. It is always occurring and I need not associate it with loss.

I know the constancy of change. Yet, I think differently now. Change is loss, and much more. Although we are politically correct in using the word “loss” via-a-vis change, it is the wrong word to use. It is a softener, ostensibly making our lives easier. Yet it does not. The word “loss” misrepresents and distracts us from the direct and raw experience of what is actually happening and what it offers us. The word “loss” takes us away from the experience that will best grow, move and change us. So too does the word “change.”

We Westerners cringe even more strongly with the word I am about to use, the word that can move us toward and into the experience that serves our becoming: This word is death. Change is death. Death is what is happening in every change. Death is the constant in our lives. Death and life are one indivisible whole. We do not recognize the experience of death for we have been taught to distract from it. We fool ourselves pretending to attend to death, but we are instead attending to loss. The energy of death differs from the energy of loss. Experiencing loss in our lives changes us less beneficially than the giving of ourselves over to experiencing the many deaths occurring constantly in our daily lives.

Whether the deaths involve a hoped for future, a change in dinner plans, the death of a loved one, or the change in a summer day from one of warm sunshine to an approaching rain storm with thunder and lightening – like the one happening as I write this piece – death is occurring. Today’s sunny day is dead. What lives here, now, is an increasingly darkening sky with significantly cooler temperatures and blowy winds. A lovely death, and a new birth.

What I invite is this:

  • Consent to change. Consent to death. Say YES to the changes death brings us in each moment.
  • Experience the psychology and physiology of loss when it arrives, yet, know, too, that these experiences are distinct from experiencing the phenomena, the empirical rawness of death. It is this experience of death that changes us in beneficial ways.

Years ago the anthropologist and author Carlos Castaneda introduced us to his take on the ancient wisdom of Mexico. One of his invitations involved having death sit on our shoulder. He was fostering the beginnings of our developing a consciousness of death. One that would enable us to more fully live. Few if any of us have done so.

I, myself, have no death consciousness. I sense however it is wanting its place in me.