Becoming the change that I want to see in the world

Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘We must become the change we want to see in the world’

Joy Maitland suggests that we ‘Be the difference that makes the difference’

and from Debasish Mridha: ‘A small positive thought can bring a magical change to the world.

Ok.

We’ve all heard these or something like them haven’t we? This kind of motivational statement about changing the world that sounds so good and so positive… it gets used on bumper stickers or as a throw away remark from people in answer to some of the really hard questions that we might have about managing our life experiences. Life is hard? Become the change you want to see! You just scratched your new car? Well, just become the change you want to see! Your children are pushing your buttons? Become the change that YOU want to see!

How many of us have ever paused and thought about what these phrases actually mean? Because they are valid. But maybe their validity runs deeper than just a throw away remark in response to hardship.

A year or so ago I was teaching a qigong class and one of my students came with this story:
The week before we had begun to discuss a challenging situation Jane found herself in with her adult son. He had moved back home after a relationship breakdown, and they had been at loggerheads ever since. Arguing about the smallest things, unable to find ease in each others company, irritated and annoyed. Things were tough.

We discussed the situation and ‘becoming the change that Jane wanted to see in the world’ was mentioned. Truthfully, it was a throw away remark using a throw away phrase to brush off a situation that someone was experiencing as hard that we couldn’t really help with or fix for her. To put some distance between ourselves and Jane’s pain. But Jane took the suggestion on board and went home and considered her situation and what it actually meant to ‘become the change she wanted to see in the world’.
Instead of going into the story of ‘she said, he said’ about her son, she sat down and really examined her own part in the situation. She saw what she had been doing and saying to create her part of the disharmony and then, without going into a ‘poor me’ or a blame story, and without asking for any change other then what she could change in her own self, she sat until she could find gratitude for the situation and for her son and held that in her heart.

Let’s consider that for a moment. It’s not an easy thing to do, to really, deeply and honestly feel gratitude for someone when you feel that you are wronged or unheard, but she did it, she held her heart open, and felt the power of gratitude.
That night, unprompted, her son came home with a bunch flowers for her, and although they didn’t talk about the situation, with his actions, her son showed Jane that he saw his part and their relationship change.

But really, so what?

That isn’t bringing change to the world. A bunch of flowers and night off from arguments and frustrations.

But let’s consider this. One lady, one moment of changing her insides which changed her outsides and the lived experience of the people around her. Can we comprehend the ripples of this sort of story? Can we imagine all of the people that then brushed against these lives and were affected by the change that she had become in the world? The grandkids that weren’t yelled at and then didn’t need to internalise or externalise the discomfort from the treatment, the dogs that weren’t kicked and then didn’t need to take out their response to pain and fear on the postman or the neighbours cat, the call center operators who rang at dinner time and were spoken to with respect rather than being abused and then were able to go home and enjoy their time with their wives and families instead of needing to release the pressure from the bad treatment… this stuff has ripples! And this is Becoming the Change That I Want To See in the World.

There are so many things in the world that are hard, out of our control, challenging and frustrating. And the only thing that we have any control over is ourselves and our responses.

To sit in gratitude, to really, deeply feel it, and to see the tangible proof that gratitude=love=forgiveness= creating a change in the way that we relate to ourselves and therefore to everyone around us.

I can’t do anything about horrendous things that are happening all around the world and out of my control. I can’t do anything about anyone or anything except where it begins with myself. When I make the choice to change my insides which changes my outsides in turn.

So today, I being my day with gratitude. Truly and deeply felt in my heart and I see that with that one small choice I am becoming the change that I want to see in the world. It may not seem like much but it is truly the only thing that I can do.

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