“Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.” -Phillip Shepherd
I still remember the summer afternoon I met my designer, Benjamin, who has made my work beautiful and real since 2010. He had never answered a Craigslist ad before, but some kind of synchronicity occurred and he called me to set up a meeting, as he was coming down from Portland to sign up another much larger client. He walked into the little house we then used as our office. It was hot because the windows were stuck and closed in the heat. He looked me squarely and asked simply, “Can you change?” I sat for a moment, considering and then said, “Yes, I can change. I think so.” This is the only real question that defines every relationship we are part of, including and most importantly, with ourselves.
This is no small thing, the willingness to listen to others and to life itself deeply enough and with sufficient vulnerability, that we can give up our attachment to how we think it is, or want it to be. Truly, we see things as we are, not as they are, and so learning how to use our senses to truly inform us about what is real and present is the most loving thing we can possibly attempt. So how then do we get out of our own way and open up to being changed by the circumstances and people that we have magnetized into the play we call our life?
Lately, I have been pondering Benjamin’s question about being able to change again, realizing that often and maybe even usually, the thing that locks us into a pattern of seeing, filters what we hear or how we can listen, is fear. So another way of asking whether we can change might be, to ask, “What would you choose if there is nothing you feared?” What could you listen for? What could you see if you weren’t afraid? This is my mantra of late… who would I be if I wasn’t afraid to fail, to be rejected, to be my fully imperfect self?
One thing that has become clear as I hold this thought through my days is that it is too easy for me to get stopped by needing to know how to make this change. When I get quiet I hear a voice in my head whispering “Just want to let go, just intend to change, the universe will provide the how.” I know that this is true of all change that I have witnessed- we see only a tiny portion of the whole of what is possible and grace acts on our behalf in the balm of forgiveness, of new friends, or of new ways of seeing.
Being willing to change has another real benefit too- we become more flexible and resilient towards the vast shifts occurring in our larger world as well- everything from weather systems to communication mechanisms to cultural patterns of intimate relationships is being redefined. Letting things change inside prepares you to ride the waves of life’s transformations. “Can you change?” is really like asking “Can you be alive to this moment fully?” Letting go of our expectations for the future, as well as our disappointments from the past, is the bridge to true change.