Is a change happening for you that is so intensely hard, you wonder if you can even be resilient through it? Do you wish all would return to as it was? We never just change. There is a whole process to change that is necessary or we simply resist and balk, perhaps even stamp our feet and dig in our heels. Sound familiar? Of course, some things in our life, some relationships change and simply fall away like leaves do in this season.
Precontemplation is the stage of change where we have no intention to change. We may not even know where or why we need to make a change. Perhaps we don’t even recognize that one even needs to be made. Sometimes, we know change needs to occur, but it’s just off the radar because it is so low on the priority scale. Because it’s not even on the radar, there is no contemplating a change to occur in the next 6 months. This stage has an unknown length of time.
If we do not have the awareness of what we need to change and our mindset is closed to hearing from others of how our behaviours impact them, this stage of precontemplation can create huge frustration, hurt and betrayal for people around us. Especially if we never see the negative impact upon others or our environment of our relationship patterns, our habits, our behaviours of conflict or even our shadow orientations. And yet, the only way we move into contemplating change is the moment we begin to recognize that our behaviours and relationships cause us greater pain than they do pleasure. At that point, we begin to be open to letting go of that which no longer provides pleasure and we begin to contemplate change.
The paradox is that this contemplation to change can last two weeks to several years. You see, the stage of contemplation is about seriously considering that one will make changes of behaviour in the next 6 months. However, the person may not yet be convinced that change is completely necessary; that their pain is not that bad and that the pleasure of change may not be worth the pain of change they believe it would require. In fact, they may only just be aware that the pain they experience is even connected to the behaviour, so to speak. I often encounter great fear in this stage as people vacillate between awareness, denial and the realization a significant change needs to happen.
The reality is that our soul manifests changes in a timing that our egos cannot control…much to our chagrin at times. However, if we are not awake and in tune with our soul essence, we may not be aware of the flow toward change with which our soul is leading. The process of change can then feel much more abrupt and something that feels forced upon us, rather than the gentle course of contemplation and preparation before action even takes place. Not listening deeply has a huge price on our lives.
I am constantly joking with people that spiritual practices and nurturing spirituality makes sense and is a most reasonable activity in our lives. And here is another reason for doing so: we are better prepared to remain resilient, creative and patient in the process of change. Surrendering to change that our soul is manifesting is simpler and easier, though not less challenging.
At the point that we finally prepare for change – which typically can be anywhere from 2 hours to 3 months (but can last up to 6 months) – we have begun to set intentions to change behaviour in the next 6 months. We may have made some small behavioural change or may have tried over the past year and have not been successful. So while preparation for change is one step closer to the action of change, what is often challenging here is getting clear on our intention and focus for action. Our contemplation must be meaningful or we migrate back into precontemplation. Though change is not a simplistic process, constant re-migration to precontemplation and contemplation without ever getting to action is simply a waste of energy, creativity and frankly is a behavioural addiction to procrastination, excuses or a mental attachment to fear.
I’m quite amazed at how often I hear people speak about wanting to change a behaviour or complete a goal and then choose not to get the help and support they need to accomplish it. Why do we think we have to do everything ourselves? What is the issue of asking for help and getting support to change? Or all kinds of stories are created excusing them from standing up and living their destiny in a creative and loving way.
Surrounding ourselves with beneficial support and having a spiritual practice that sustains us through this time of new action can be the medium of our success or failure. Making mistakes is not a bad thing. Nor is failure. Often failure provides us with information and insight about where our strategies are not aligned with our values or about the truth of what we really, really want. The issue is, as I see it, is that we are ashamed of ourselves if we fail and so we don’t ask in case we don’t succeed. That way, no one has to know.
The other thinking process I hear is, “I’m not going to spend money on the help I need. It’s too expensive.” Usually, when I question further, money is simply a front, a smoke screen for the real issue, often one of inadequacy of some kind. The amount of struggle that can be created by these inner shadows of shame can bring about such distress in what is already a challenging task…that is, to change our behaviour!!
Finally, we take action and begin the successful altering of our behaviour or social situation. We take action and action and action and over a period of 6 months we are at a place of low risk to the old behaviour. We establish substitute behaviours that bring more health and meaning. We often begin to open up to others in a new way. We have found strategies to avoid or counter expected high risk situations. We also take pleasure in rewarding ourselves. Hmmm, maybe meaningful, contemplated change is about soaring.
The really cool knowing here is that the Universe shows up the moment we start movement toward change! Oh yes, it creates space that allows us to discover that change is an impulse we need to follow to dissipate our pain and gain the wisdom of a new way. And once we take our insight and MOVE into ACTION, the Universe shows up in every way amazing to support, encourage and fulfil our intention.
With discipline, repetition, focus and loving action, we can maintain a new behaviour simply by repeating what we did in the action phase of change. Change is. We can’t stop it. It will come. It is our attitude and meaning of change that can help us be more graceful in the midst of it. Even if we stumble through change, having a spiritual practice and an awareness of what we need to navigate our transformations, we will be graceful.
I’m curious about what change is upon you this fall. The leaves are beginning to fall. They are not resisting it. Fall season comes every year. If you imagine being a leaf on a tree right now, about to fall, what is it that needs to fall away? What do you need to let go of so you can move more freely and gracefully through change? What’s stopping you from making a change you know you need to make? Where are you in the process of change:
Integration: new behaviour is now a habit?
I know change can be very difficult. I know that as much as we want the pain to stop in our lives, being and living the change that opens the path to pleasure can seem arduous and even too fearful to contemplate. However, if you experience conflict in your intimate relationships, in your work, with your friends and it seems to be repetitive, then perhaps you may wish to contemplate change where you have denied change is necessary.
Speaking with someone you trust, inviting yourself to have a bold conversation with someone who can support you with change, seeking the empowerment and awareness of Great Spirit are just a few ways to get you changing, like a leaf gracefully falling from a tree, letting go of that which no longer serves you.
©Shirley Lynn Martin