Is changing tomorrow too late?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

Those who read this commentary should know that here we are talking of being aware of ourselves, of what happens to our emotions, feelings, thoughts, tensions, attitudes etc. that always make us react in the same way.  We are not talking about changing minor details although, in them, we come across all of the above.

Firstly I would like to highlight an error that we tend to commit in relation to almost anything we want to change.  We want the “thing” to be what changes.  If we want to stop feeling bad, we want to change that to feeling well.  We want to change it, as we change the colour of the walls of our house when they are in a bad state.  It just requires an external action to change something that is outside us.

When what happens is that we feel bad, we cannot change it because we cannot buy something to make us feel well.  We are what has to change.  But that change cannot take place tomorrow.  Any solution to a problem requires that we understand the problem.  Perhaps you remember being at school when we had to solve problems in maths, physics or chemistry.  We did it by applying a certain formula to the data we were given.  But when the data were not clear or we did not understand the premise, we did not know how to apply the formula.  We did not understand the basis of the problem and we just tried to fit the data into the formula.  If it worked out, sometimes we did not know why we had got the right answer, and if it did not work out we did not know either.  Something like that happens to us when we want to change something inside us, we try to do it as if it were something external that troubles us and that we want to change.

Returning to the example of the problem at school, we need to be clear that the problem and the data are inside us and that we need to examine them and understand them before thinking of changing anything.

To learn about the cause of the malaise we need to see what is working badly.  In the same way that when our vehicle has a problem we do not simply consider exchanging it for another, but we check it over and try to understand the cause of the problem, we will do the same with ourselves.  The solution is clear when we understand the problem.  We will not fix the vehicle by becoming annoyed with it or blaming someone or not wanting to see the problem.  So we must be very cautious when we propose a change, since the only valid way is to learn what we are like and how we function.  Seeking to change is an error.  Only learning about ourselves with an open mind, without blame, evasions and interpretations produces change.

Change is a result of getting to know ourselves and accepting ourselves just as we are.  Secondly, getting to know ourselves better only occurs in the present moment. It is another error to believe that the future or the passing of time is going to change what I feel.  If I am driving a vehicle and manoeuvre badly it may be that some other driver will react by becoming angry.  It may be that my reaction will be to become angry too or to apologise with an ill grace.  But it may be that, if I pay attention, I will realise that I was responsible for the incident, I accept it and, despite the fact that my reaction of anger begins to surface, I observe it, I do not feed it and I apologise sincerely.   

If I am able to do this, I will probably not harbour any further reaction within me about the matter.  It will be closed, I will not store up any emotions about it.  If someone tells me that my work is not well done, I may feel offended and respond by defending myself rudely.  But if I am able to observe my reaction.  I will be able to ask my colleague about the points they consider deficient or flawed.  I will find that perhaps they are right and that I must check whether this is the case.

I will not feel offended and defensive.  I will not harbour any further thoughts and justifications in my mind about the matter  When I observe my reactions and I understand that mostly I am just defending my image, my “I” I will be able to file away events without hoarding any trace of them. 

When I feel bad, the most common response is to want to get away from it. 

However, it is necessary to observe what I feel, the tension, the emotions, what I feel and my attitude and to be clear that they are normal reactions motivated by fear or insecurity or my defensive attitude.  If I do not fight against everything that occurs, I will be able to observe like an impartial witness, all of my involuntary reactions like someone who is watching from a neutral position.  Without criticising anything, without judging what happens to me at that moment as being good or bad.  It is always in the present moment that I can observe.  I cannot observe tomorrow, nor do I need to have a time devoted to observing.  I observe while I am experiencing what exists at the very moment in which everything happens.  To do this, I just need a clear intention to observe like an impartial witness.  In the simple examples that I have mentioned above, it is clear that change is today, at every moment.  Not tomorrow.  It is not difficult.  It is all about applying yourself.