Thursday, October 22, 2009

Too Much Change?

One constant that is always with us in our lives is impermanence. Things change. It's so commonplace that you would think everyone would be keenly aware of it's presence in every moment. But, more often than not, most of us are living out storylines suggesting that certain things will last and, as a result, we experience a lot of suffering when those things don't end up lasting.

That's a pretty basic teaching of Buddhism: that things come together and fall apart all the time.

I've been reflecting today on a different, but related issue. What happens when you either push too hard for changes to occur, or you don't do enough to support beneficial changes to occur?

At the school I work at, we have open enrollment. In addition, we currently are struggling financially and as a result, are trying to fill our classrooms in order gain more state funding from student hours. The reality these two issues, combined with a few others, is classrooms that have almost weekly changes in student composition. You can imagine the effect this has had on our teaching.

If you untangle this situation, you can find both too much pressure for change, as well as not enough support for beneficial changes to occur on their own. The panic from lack of certain funding has taken over the wisdom of allowing for more gradual changes to come to classroom composition, and as a result, the teachers, including myself, have had to drop long term planning for classes in favor of more self-contained lessons and short term projects. In other words, instead of a more organic process of change, what we have at our school is runaway snowball change.

I know our little school isn't alone in having this problem. Think of all those drug companies that have rushed a medication to market without proper research. Or laws that have been made in haste, which then spawned more problems than they solved. Or even in your own life, how you failed to have patience and tried to force something to come, or simply didn't do anything and expected it to just occur.

There's a danger in just believing in impermanence. Without a skillful mix of patience, and practice, it's very true that things will change, but probably in ways that you definitely won't enjoy. Sure, it's possible that no matter what you do, a shift in your life might be crappy. But it's more likely that with patience and practice, the circumstances of life will in a beneficial way.


Richard Harrold said...

"Or even in your own life, how you failed to have patience and tried to force something to come, or simply didn't do anything and expected it to just occur."

Ouch. But I needed to hear that, as the latter statement has been my nemesis, the not doing anything and still expecting better results.


spldbch said...

I've also been struggling with this. There are things we can control and things we can't. With the things we can't control we simply have to accept them (well, there are other options, but accepting them is definitely the best of these options). It's the things over which we DO have control that present a dilemma -- what's the best course of action to take? Just because I CAN do something does that mean I SHOULD do something? Sometimes I end up paralized because I don't know what to do!

Nathan said...

yeah, i sometimes end up paralyzed in not knowing what to do as well. i try to keep reminding myself that there's a difference between not doing something out of fear, and not doing something because that's what the situation is calling for.

Barry said...

But what's the calligraphy? (Awesome!)