How Am I Changing?

Posted by Jacinta Hin on July 23, 2011

In the first few weeks following the Tohoku Earthquake of March 11 I had a strong sense of awakening and standing at the beginning of something new. Although experiencing the earthquake (in Tokyo) had been somewhat traumatic and I was in constant pain about the devastation and human suffering in the North, I also felt grateful and more alive, open and connected than ever before.

But slowly I returned to the life I had before March 11, falling back in the routine of a busy job and a familiar way of living. Excitement about the future made place for anxiety about the huge challenges the affected areas (and Japan at large) are facing, while I’ve yet to act upon the many intentions I made in those first weeks to do things differently from now on.

Looking back, March 11 did not change me the way I‘d expected it would. I am not transformed in any obviously dramatic way and have not taken any big leap forwards.

In some way I’m disappointed that a big awakening did not sweep me off my feet and drag me into new territories. Sometimes it feels as if I was only allowed a glimpse and for reasons undisclosed did not qualify for the next round.

Other times I’m disappointed with myself. That I’ve used my time and energy to organize my life back into what it was, instead of stepping into the unknown. I look at the people who are tirelessly helping with the relief efforts in the North, and wonder why I’m not out there volunteering. I see how others have made meaningful changes in their lives following the earthquake, while mine has basically remained the same.

But when I take a step back, I realize that disappointment is just a form of self-pity.

I remind myself that transformation is not an overnight event. A traumatic event such as the Tohoku Earthquake (and the disasters that followed) serves as a trigger for change, but transformation itself is a gradual process that requires our active participation. There are steps and phases, but there’s no handbook as to how it should be done. Change is not a clear-cut, linear process, where you go from a to b, while of course it also works differently for different people.

There are probably good reasons for my life returning to a certain normalcy, and the intentions I made in those first weeks are still available for me to put into action. In fact, I’m in a better position to do so today than I was four months ago.

I might still be the same person with the same issues and flaws, but I’m also changing. March 11 has given me more clarity on the path I’m on in this life. I have a deeper sense of connection with the world around me, more appreciation for each moment, and take things less for granted. Love, previously a complicated word full of conflicting feelings, now simply is present, quietly underlining the flow of my being.

And then there are the smaller changes. I gave up meat, wake up early most days, put a regular exercise regime in place, and created a facebook page dedicated to change and transition in Japan. Overall I use my time more wisely. Wasting it feels as an insult to the people who have lost everything and those who are supporting them through these difficult times.

I’m changing in a less radical way than I’d thought I would, but I’ve not returned to life as I knew it. On the surface it might look as if I have, but underneath I’m going with whatever it is that the earthquake has set in motion.

Perhaps that is what awakening is all about. A fleeting moment in which we feel the power of change in the whole of our system, so that the fog keeping us asleep and stuck in our status quo falls away and we can see our lives and choices more clearly.

I now treasure that moment of awakening that started somewhere in the middle of the earthquake and stretched for weeks. Now that I stopped waiting for something big to show up, I’m no longer disappointed. Reinterpreting its meaning as a turning point has helped me see how I’m already changing and that it’s entirely up to me what I do with that.

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