Chapter 5 – Change and Choice

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.
Anonymous

“There’s always room for improvement, of course, but seeing how we could make things better is different from expecting the world to cure our inner dissatisfaction.” Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche represents the Buddhist worldview as he continues: “Asking outer conditions to make us okay will never bring happiness, because outer conditions are always changing. We are asking instability to bring about stability. According to the law of karma—cause and effect—that’s impossible.”  The kind of change we are talking about is not relative change (change within P-B). We are talking about profound change, meaning a paradigm shift, a change in our story.

Why are so few people able to shift from P-B to P-A? I suspect fear is the main obstacle since such a profound change involves the ability to let go of old emotional conditioning, beliefs, values and attitudes. As Carl Jung said, “Every transformation demands as its precondition ‘the ending of a world’—the collapse of an old philosophy of life.”  Most people looking at that challenge turn back to P-B which is familiar.  The familiar, however, we must remember, is unsustainable.

  • We can get people to use less fossil fuel but global warming will still occur.
  • We can get nations to sign nuclear arms reduction treaties but a nuclear winter will eventually occur.
  • We can get people to wash their hands assiduously but pandemics will still occur.
  • We can all hold hands and sing Kumbaya but ethnic cleansing will still occur.
  • We can send drones aloft and troops abroad but terrorists will still elude capture and destruction.
  • We can expand the war on drugs around the globe but producers, distributors and users will grow more numerous.
  • We can build walls along borders and patrol the crossing points diligently but immigrants will still arrive undetected.

Why?  Because all these problems exist in and were created by the human story that is being written each moment of each day in the human mind. We believe that story because it is our story and we will write the tragic ending unless we agree that we want to change that story in a profound way.

Secondly, we will need the courage to commit to change, and not run away or commit to a “phony” change. Many writings on psychotherapy fail to realize that decision precedes knowledge or insight. As Rollo May says, “… the patient cannot permit himself to get insight or knowledge until he is ready to decide, until he takes a decisive orientation to life and has made the preliminary decisions along the way.”  I would add that the “decisive orientation” is choosing P-A as the context in which the decision is made. A narrative that is less profound than an experience of the present moment will not support the paradigm shift that will transform human identity and human behavior.  Profound change requires a profound context.

It is important for an individual to have a plan or blueprint such as Simple Reality to support the change that is inherent in the paradigm shift from P-B into the present moment (P-A). We must know where we are and who we are and have a practice that we know works because we have experienced it. Again, Rollo May: “… only when the person has some hope of getting relief from his suffering and despair and of receiving some help in his problems will he undertake the painful process of investigating his illusions and uncovering his defenses and rationalizations.”

Going deeper into the fundamental nature of change and its relationship to Simple Reality we find that change is paradoxical.  Nothing that is “real” changes so we need not fear that which “appears” to be real, that which is an illusion (P-B). We need only to stop identifying with that illusion, we need only to stop reacting to it, we need only to breathe and embrace the unchanging yet infinitely rich experience that is Simple Reality.

Only in P-A will we experience true and profound change.

“Change is the movement of energy without hindrance. It is the echo of life itself … Change is freedom. It is the end of attachment. It is the end of fear. There is nothing that binds us, there never has been.”  Steven Harrison has expressed it very well, but it is up to us to make the change a reality, to “be the change” as Gandhi put it. 

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References and notes are available for this article.
For a much more in-depth discussion on Simple Reality, read Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival, by Roy Charles Henry, published in 2011.

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