Making Friends With Change

If you find that you are deeply affected by the external problems of the world, you are not alone. Between political, social and personal turbulence, it’s normal to feel uneasy, scared, angry or helpless. Understanding that things are always changing can be helpful. 

Another particularly useful strategy is to avoid clinging to things that are pleasant or averting from things that are unpleasant. While we naturally lean towards things we like, being present with both will allow the experiences to move through so that we do not attach to one or the other and remain stuck.

In Buddhism, there is a teaching about first and second darts. The first dart is the certainty that you will experience some physical or mental discomfort simply by being human…you experience injury, illness, old age, death of a loved one or a loss of a meaningful experience. These first darts are the inescapable reality of the human condition. Pain exists.

The second (and avoidable) dart is your reaction to the first dart. If you burn your hand on the stove, you create additional pain by telling yourself how stupid you are or getting angry and breaking something or yelling at your partner because you are in pain. This creates suffering.

Let’s look at a scenario…you walk into your house and it is a mess. Your roommates have left dirty dishes out, there are clothes strewn about, the garbage can is overflowing, and the cat pooped on the carpet. There is no physical first dart–you haven’t broken a limb or been physically attacked by anyone. This could be the first emotional dart, mental or emotional discomfort about a messy space and roommates who don’t respect the space or you. 

You can feel the second darts arise within your nervous system–taking it personally and getting angry; wanting to take a hard line approach and change the locks; wanting to flee the situation because you hate confrontation; and/or feeling powerless that you’ll never be able to resolve the situation. Rather than accumulating second and third darts, observe the rising emotions and discomfort. 

Uncomfortable emotions can include fear, anxiety, powerlessness, hopelessness, sadness or anger and we typically push them away or numb them rather than face them. Anger can help mobilize you to come up with a strategy to alleviate the first painful dart, but wield it carefully and wisely. You might propose a meeting with your roommates to discuss and find an agreeable solution. Perhaps something more extreme may be required, like preparing for evictions if this has been an ongoing issue. 

It will take work but, rather than being reactive and creating more suffering within yourself and toward others, you become proactive and create solutions. We can’t escape discomfort, but we can learn to interact with it in meaningful ways that do not generate more suffering.

Thich Nat Hanh said (about challenging people), “Talking to them may not change them. When we change what is in our hearts, we can change our own outward reactions and outward behavior. And when they see that we have changed, they have the potential to change as well.”

If you live in conditions that support your wellbeing (i.e. your fundamental needs are met–roof over your head, food on the table, loving personal connections) then you arguably have an imperative to continue the work to refine your inner environment, to benefit not only yourself but your greater community. If you commit yourself to working in the community for social justice, do so based on love of your community rather than hatred or ill-will toward those you don’t agree with. 

Portland has changed dramatically since it was founded in the 1840s. Every day the face of it changes and it will continue to change.  Just as we all go through highs and lows in our own lives, Portland does too, and we can opt to surf the waves and support Portland through the hard times just as we celebrate and revel in it in the good times. It requires more muscular effort when times are tough, but by committing to reducing suffering internally and externally, we contribute to the health of our community.

Next time you find yourself ruminating on what’s wrong with the world (or Portland), notice what else exists in the same space–nature, friendly neighbors, our own good intentions. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” What kind of energy are you contributing?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can contact me at

Stacey Royce


Yoga Therapist


Making Friends With Change

1 thought on “<strong>Making Friends With Change</strong>”

  1. I agree whole heartedly with the idea that in order to change another we have to first change ourselves.
    At some point in my life, I realized that I needed to act and not react. When something negative happens, take some time to think about it, digest it and then consider what action or actions you want to take. By doing this you eliminate or reduce the emotional aspect which can cause overreactions thus making the situation worse and you are giving yourself more control over the situation.
    I have on my computer desktop a conversation between an American Indian and his grandson. One evening, an elderly Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside each of us.
    He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
    The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
    “The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that you feed.”

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