The Problem of Change

Parinama Dukha: The Problem of Change

This winter we decided to remodel our kitchen. For someone who loves cooking as much as I do, this seemed like a dream come true. Unfortunately, the promise of more efficient appliances, new cabinets and shinier surfaces blinded me to the disorder and discomfort that would ensue.  This promised three-week transition to a new cooking area became a nine-week ordeal which turned my home (and my composure) upside down.

Week after week, we struggled to maintain some routine and normalcy amidst the chaos. Our beautiful living room had to serve as a lounge, kitchen and storage area. We attempted, in vain, to find places to sit on drop-cloth covered furniture between boxes (brimming with kitchen items) stacked precariously toward the ceiling.

Finally, after (what seemed like a very long) time and endless take-out meals, the installation of our stove, sink and refrigerator enabled me to cook and nourish myself and my family with good food. Because there were still no handles on the cabinets, however, the external chaos continued as I foraged for pans and utensils through box after box on couches and chairs.

I observed that all the external disorder created a state of inner chaos. As the weeks continued, I became unable to bring my mind to a place of balance. Clearly our external world has a profound effect on our state of mind, and vice versa.

My simple construction project lead me to some questions and self-refection which I’d like to share.

Do we need a clean, organized life to remain in balance? Does the fear of making changes we ultimately know will be more beneficial, prevent us from making those changes?

Patanjali informs us that all life is parinama (change). Though we may not all have major construction projects to deal with, there will always be some new activities in our life (sometimes self-initiated, sometimes not), that will result in disorientation and chaos.

Through consistent practice, however, we can cultivate the strength and stability to better weather life’s many modifications.

Yoga teaches us to act as consciously and skillfully as possible, all the while aware that there will be changes and conditions beyond our control.  The good news is that, with practice, we can get better at observing the chaos from a place of stability and comfort.  Next year, were planning to remodel the bathroom. Better double up on my practice now.

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