as I walk beside the sliding waves.
On the sand, in the sun, at the shore
breathing hazy air, bright white and brave
filled with liquid, brisk, exquisite sounds
I am found, content and most secure
where everything is moving
and the sand is shifting evermore."
--Suzanne McDermott, from Mine for Good, 1995
Any coastline is a space of constant change. Water alters land. Remains are deposited and retrieved. Life and death and mysteries abound. Colors shift in the blink of an eye. Wind slaps waves and splatters sea foam. Salt evaporates. Sand gets into everything. Ghost crabs skitter and steal. Birds fish. Rays flap. One day the surface of the sea is still and silky. The next day, churning and explosive. Although the level of drama depends on the sea in question, there is never a dull moment along any coastline.
The world at large has started to feel like a long, dramatic coastline. So many of our individual lives have shifted or are shifting in ways we may never have imagined. But the fact is that the world has always been in a process of constant change, as have our individual lives.
Leaves fall, snow drifts down, winds whip up, new green shoots appear, and summer comes in. Coastlines have always been shifting. Our bodies, minds, and orientation in space and time are different moment by moment. Change is decidedly more dramatic now thanks in large part to anthropogenic climate change. Try as some people might, there's no getting around that fact. But that's not the only cause for the drama.
At some point, we got it into our heads that life is stable, that we can rely on facts and material assurances. This may have been true for some, or even for many for a while. But it isn't true anymore. In fact, it's often not clear what is true anymore.
If we've made up our minds that life should be stable, well, that makes facing change that much more alarming and difficult to navigate. If we cling to some illusion of normalcy, we're resisting change and actually clinging to the past which doesn't exist anymore.
Contending with change involves accepting considerable uncertainty. We like to think that we can control an awful lot of our experience and uncertainty is a control freak's nightmare.
I think that there are two keys to riding the waves of change. One is to recognize that we can only control ourselves. The other is to practice being present, here and now. Easier said than done. Interestingly enough, these are also the two keys to surfing.
And what do you know, going within and learning to know ourselves so that we can control ourselves, and being here now are the keys to a fully realized human life.
"Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. In other words, if we're going to be more cheerful in the future, it's because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now." —Pema Chodron