A principal quality that sets humans apart from other species is our amazing ability to adapt to external circumstances.
When it’s cold, we don warm clothes and build a fire.
When it’s warm, we turn on the AC, or bask in a shady pool.
All creatures – even primitive ones – possess a God-given instinct to adapt to their environment. But in humans, the instinct is raised to amazing heights of ingenuity.
Because our external circumstances are always changing, the ability to adapt wisely is an important survival mechanism. In extreme cases, we may be challenged to adapt or perish. “Adapt and survive!” is a cheerful expression of the human spirit.
In the last two months, the fates have blessed Dr. Connie and me with a stunning series of opportunities to adapt to change.
I’ve told how we were forced to vacate our apartment when black mold was found in the walls. We’re still camping out in a temporary apartment. Then our car suddenly died and needed to be replaced. Finally, in the midst of these and an ongoing series of other challenging circumstances, we moved the Pacific Naturopathic offices to a new location.
How did we cope with the disruptions to the comfortable flow of our lives?
As we age, we increasingly tend to resist change – we become settled in our ways. Our bodies change, and the thought occurs, “Whoa, I’m not done with this young body!”
There’s a feeling of wonder – Hey, I’m the same person – my brain and heart feel so youthful and engaged. Why is my body no longer going along with the plan?
There’s an urge to dig in our heels, to refuse to accept reality and rebel. And that’s too bad, because change is life’s gift – it’s an opportunity for positive growth. “I yam what I yam!” sang Popeye, thus proving his unworthiness of the blessing.
There’s no stopping the process. This body will pass into dust. But at every moment we’re blessed with opportunities to expand our awareness. And it’s a fundamental principle of every true spiritual teaching that inner expansion, in the form of broadening sympathies and a steady increase of the heart’s kindness and compassion, brings us unprecedented happiness and freedom from suffering.
Alas, the opposite is also true: that resisting the call to inner expansion and joy spells the sure death of happiness.
Over the years, Dr. Connie and I have made a wonderful game of watching how we respond to the challenges in our lives. We love to experience, over and over, the joy that comes by gracefully adapting to the changes.
It’s not a question of highfalutin’ philosophy – we’ve simply discovered, with our feet firmly planted in reality, that the changes in our external circumstances are calling us to respond in creative, expansive ways that energize us and stimulate us to soften our hearts and expand our inner perspective.
The more graciously we can internalize our outward experiences, the deeper our understanding grows, and the more piercingly we are able to understand the nature of this life.
It’s a lifelong, wonderful process of expanding into ever-greater joy – a process has no end. Frankly, we love it, because it makes us feel engaged and vibrantly alive. We know that we will eventually reach a point of inner peace with our circumstances where we will taste the bliss at the heart of creation.
In the flux and flow of our lives, there’s a mysterious power at work that is greater than our limited awareness. Though we can’t put a finger on it, or package it in fixed definitions, we can feel it, savor it, and know that it is real.
As we search for deeper understanding, the swirling detritus of our lives loses its ability to bind us with worries. We grow in calm acceptance and inner joy. As ancient mariners navigated by watching the stars, we discover that the most joyful way to navigate life’s challenges is to maintain an unyielding upward focus. Calm adaptation then becomes a comfortable, familiar path to happiness.
For more on Dr. Marcel’s work click HERE.