1. Truth: I’ve been thinking a lot about paradigm shifts. In case you’ve never heard that phrase before it simply means doing or seeing things in a whole new way. It’s a total revolution in your understanding of something you previously took for granted. It’s like having faulty vision and then putting on prescription glasses — suddenly you see things in a whole new way. I’ve been through a few of these in my life, am currently experiencing another and thinking a lot about what it means. One shift for me was away from diet culture, disordered eating, self-loathing, and smashing myself to bits. My current shift is dismantling the existing system(s) of white supremacy, in myself and in the world.
2. Truth: Living a paradigm shift can feel like experiencing the stages of grief, (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). And there is a sort of grief in letting go of an old way of being, entering a phase of discomfort and groundlessness. Initially, you live outside of the old system of understanding without fully inhabiting the new, and it can be lonely in that space. The tug of that old comfort, that worn knowing is strong. For some shifts, in order to view things a new way, one also might experience guilt, shame, and confusion. To fully make the shift, one needs to take responsibility for suffering we’ve generated and also to forgive ourselves. It’s hard work. As Pema Chödrön said,
I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” Somehow, even before I heard the Buddhist teachings, I knew that this was the spirit of true awakening. It was all about letting go of everything. Nevertheless, when the bottom falls out and we can’t find anything to grasp, it hurts a lot.
3. Truth: Paradigm shifts are complicated. They take much longer than you expect, which means you’ll have to be patient. Also, in unraveling old ways of being and knowing, one discovers a web where the thing that is shifting is connected to other things that also need attention, and it can feel like a real mess, almost impossible. And yet the peace that comes with the change, the relief of letting go, releasing the attachment to things that no longer work or make sense and entering a new clarity, is worth the struggle and effort.
One wish: If you are also experiencing a paradigm shift, may you stay curious, be gentle with yourself, remain patient, stay open to new information, ask for help when you need it, keep your sense of humor, and not give up. And even as it feels like you are standing outside and separate, may you know that you are not alone.