three steps to breakthrough change

May 31, 2009

I try to go for a walk in nature every day, and I had settled perhaps too comfortably into a routine of walking to Hyde Park, lying under a tree to make some Vitamin D, and turning back.  Never mind that along the way, much closer to home, is Holland Park – a place I dismissed early on because I didn’t like it as much, even though I had only given it a cursory glance.  But I only discovered this two weeks ago, and it turned into a revelation about change, growth and trust I had to share with you.

It was one of those chilly, rainy London days people think we have year round.  Ok, so we have them 3/4 of the year.  Anyway, I waited and waited all day for sunshine that would stick around for more than a few minutes until I had to force myself out.  But I was not even three minutes down the road when things became even darker, so I decided to duck into Holland Park and resign myself to a less than pleasant walk.  Except this time something made me take a different turn here, and another one there, until I wound up in an open meadow with a single bench, empty.  I sat there for a few minutes watching the runners – both human and squirrel – and then, to my delight, watching the sky break open.  Sunshine.  I got up and made some more spontaneous turns, watching in amazement as the park I thought I knew showed its true depths to me, culminating in a treasure chest: a Japanese garden that made this city seem as far away as the place it took its inspiration from.  There was a waterfall, and koi in the pond below it, and, above all, a peace I had not known during my usual walk, the kind of peace that makes you stop walking.  This was it: my new sanctuary.  As I sat there I contemplated how the periods of intense growth in my life have always come from those moments when I thought things were at their worst – moments when I was forced, or had to force myself, into a new direction.

My experience follows on from what I’ve learned from the Tao, and I think it illustrates three steps to breakthrough change:

1.  Push through “obstacles”
2.  Let go of preconceptions
3.  Surrender to the moment

These steps apply to any situation – big or small – including changing long-seated habits and perceptions concerning food:

1. Maybe you grew up – like I did – on a slab of beef as the necessary dinner centerpiece around which all else orbited.   The message then was: “my family cares for me and feeds me this, so it must be right.”  And that’s not wrong.  We all do the best we can in every moment.  The meat-oriented meal is not inherently wrong in itself, but it doesn’t mean we need to have it every night.  If we push through this “obstacle” in our thinking, then we can expand our perception to include the possibility that maybe, just maybe, an entirely plant-based meal a few nights a week might not just be a healthy idea, but a delicious one, too.

2. Being of childbearing age, there was a time when I too wondered whether plant-based foods could provide enough calcium.  That was before I knew about African Bantu women, who consume a diet low in calcium yet have numerous pregnancies and long lactations throughout their lifetime.  When I dug deeper, I learned that countries with the highest rate of dairy consumption also have a higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.  Turns out that the foods which most Western nations turn to for their calcium intake – namely dairy products – are highly acidic foods that actually pull calcium from the very bones we are trying to protect!  I now know that my body can make better use of the calcium in dark greens, nuts and seeds.  Had I not let go of my preconception I’d never have found the alternative.

3. Ah, surrender.  The biggie, at least for me.  I’m still learning this one, and the biggest relief for me has been the realization that surrender is not just about being in the moment and not trying to control it, but about giving in to your nature and not beating yourself up about it when it doesn’t jive with your head.  The other day I went to a Mexican restaurant and felt virtuous ordering a big salad, thinking I could ignore the crispy, deep-fried tortilla it came nestled in.  I couldn’t.  I beat myself up about it until I looked at the bigger picture.  And gave myself a break.  Life is about enjoyment, and eating should be all about joy!

By the way, surrendering also means letting go of attachments.  One of my favorite authors, Dr. Wayne Dyer, says we should have a “mind open to everything and attached to nothing.”  In the two weeks since I found my “perfect sanctuary,” I found another – tucked away not too far from it.  There’s no fancy pond, no waterfall, no manicured trees.  It’s quite plain compared to the rest of the park, and it’s all mine.  For now.

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  1. Jess June 2, 2009 at 16:42

    Thanks, neighbor. I’ve been searching for wild edibles walks and have only found one in Richmond park. Let me know if you hear of any others.

  2. Alicia June 1, 2009 at 14:01

    I’m glad you have discovered Holland Park, there is so much there. They also do a season of nature walks.

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