Why ‘Being the Change’ is not Enough

The business of change is brutal. At times it is glorious, uplifting and inspiring, certainly, but the real work, the work of solving the most pressing human challenges is arduous, heart-breaking and, at times, interminable. It is messy. It is tedious. It isn’t instagrammable, or quotable, and nor is it fit for Facebook. It is, more often than not, the province of politics, economics and statistics, the work of decades, not of moments, and involves hundreds of thousands of people across ages, races, genders and cultures.

And if we’re paying attention, the business of change inevitably exposes us to the absolute worst of human nature. We look out at the horrors of war, refugee crises, environmental degradation, sexual slavery and more through tear-filled eyes screaming ‘why’ into the void. ‘How could you let this happen?’ we demand of our politicians, business leaders, and the gods we occasionally pray to.

Yes. How could we let this happen? And what can we, as individuals committed to a better life for all, do about it?

The business of change cannot be captured in bumper-sticker wisdom, nor achieved through meditation, visualisation or prayer alone (as the Dalai Lama has been telling us for decades). There is no ‘secret’ that we as relatively affluent Westerners have access to that the relatively impoverished do not. Our abundance, as we like to call it, is not a result of mindset or metaphysics – in truth, more than anything, it is an accident of circumstance, regardless of how we have leveraged our affluence into greater physical and existential freedoms since.

To be frank, the real business of change requires persistent, unrelenting, unyielding action. It requires a real commitment to doing the change, and in this it absolutely requires the capacity for deep self enquiry, and no small measure of humility. The business of change demands we be willing to confront those aspects of ourself that stand in the way of truly being of service. It requires that we know who we are, and that we be willing, and able, to be what we know.

Over the past twenty years I’ve worked with thousands of world positive people and projects – great hearted folks including natural health and wellness professionals, impact investors, ethical publishers, local food entrepreneurs, environmental activists, renewable energy innovators, public sphere protagonists, sacred sexuality practitioners and humanitarian aid workers. I’ve advised projects in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, the USA, Canada, Denmark, Germany, England, France, Jordan, Israel, Tunisia, Kenya and Morocco.

And while the contexts and cultures may be different, what I’ve discovered is that the business of change becomes more effective, more enjoyable, and more rewarding, when we bring all of our selves to the table, when we embrace our own needs, as well as our need to be of service, and when we act with compassion and intelligence in equal measure.

Most importantly, when we pay attention to the business of change, when we engage, purposefully and mindfully with what it takes to be successful in our endeavours, to be better leaders, communicators and strategists, as well as better people, we discover that it is possible to not only get more done, with less, faster, but to have a better quality of life along the way.

I have learned this the hard way myself. I have learned that as much as my practise continues to take me back to the mat, and that in so doing I increase my strength, flexibility and peace of mind, where I have found the greatest joy and fulfilment – as well as the deepest learning – is in striving for integrity between my values and actions, and ensuring that I embrace love and intelligence in equal measure.

I firmly believe that we as a species already have access to all of the knowledge and resources we need to fundamentally and irrevocably transform the human experience. And while I continue to believe that a revolution in consciousness is a precondition of global transformation, I know that awareness without action changes nothing. The world can’t wait. Don’t just sit there, do something!

Three things are necessary for a bird to fly — the two wings and the tail as a rudder for steering. Jnana (Knowledge) is the one wing, Bhakti (Love) is the other, and Yoga is the tail that keeps up the balance.

Swami Vivekananda


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