Feeling The Change

Chinese medicine is based on a lot of Daoist concepts, including the idea that everything everywhere is always shifting and changing all together all at once. According to this philosophy, since change is an inevitable part of life, it is important to acknowledge it, embrace it, and go with the flow. As humans, we experience this in two significant ways: physical changes and changes in consciousness. Sometimes these changes happen bit by bit in increments so small as to be almost imperceptible. An example of this is how we go gray. Day-to-day the shift isn't very dramatic, but over time it is obvious and significant. These changes can also happen in phases. For example, even though our brains are 90% developed by age six, this process isn't complete until the prefrontal cortex matures in our late 20s. This is the part of our brain responsible for empathy, intuition, insight, and emotional intelligence.

Lao Tzu

In Chinese medicine, it is thought that the bigger, more dramatic shifts occur at regular intervals throughout our lives, like chapters, about every seven years. Western medicine recognizes a couple of these major events, namely puberty and menopause, though Chinese medicine recognizes many more. Interestingly, this theory aligns with the idea in biology that all of our cells turn over about every seven years. In other words, at seven you are a copy of an original, at 14 you are a copy of a copy, at 21 you are a copy of a copy of a copy, and so on. Each consecutive copy is physically less true to the original, resulting in the process that we call aging. However, with each replication, there also comes an evolution in consciousness. Over time our perceptions continue to shift and we become wiser and more true to ourselves. This is one of the greatest gifts of a long life - the wisdom gained over time through consciousness expansion.

I am now firmly in my fifties, a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. I am on the tail end of one of the biggest changes that I have ever experienced. This change is so big, in fact, that it is colloquially referred to in our culture simply as "The Change." What has been most amazing about this process is not so much the physical changes as the change in consciousness and the multiple ways in which this has manifested. The biggest one is that I find myself letting go of the concept of motherhood. I never had any children so this process has been interesting; it is kind of strange to realize that the bloodline ends with me. My thoughts about my mom, who died 15 years ago, have also changed. She is becoming more of an abstract concept, and I find myself feeling more self-reliant over time and less like I want the type of comfort and advice that only a mother can give. The smaller indicators of The Change have been just as interesting. I am letting my hair grow out for the first time in many years. I removed the skeleton key from my keychain, the one I've had since college when I shared an apartment with that friend I haven't talked to in a very long time. I am suddenly craving new music: I downloaded a bunch of stuff for my personal library and have switched the music at my office from new age to ambient. I spontaneously started doing yoga again after taking a couple of years off because at this point it's starting to feel more non-negotiable. I buried my sweet kitty's ashes in the garden under her favorite window. I've decided it's time to learn a new instrument and have chosen the electric bass. I finally took the leap and started volunteering at the hospice. I am generally feeling more sentimental.

It is said that as we age, time goes faster. I think part of this process is that over the course of our lives we stop living as much in the day-to-day and begin to see things more in terms of the bigger patterns. Our daily rhythms become more regular and fixed, we get better at sensing the seasonal shifts, we recognize the onset of a new chapter, and we see further and further into the future. The details and distractions slip away, we simplify, and we see the essence of life more clearly. I know that in my life there are many moons left, but only so many years, and just a handful of chapters. Though life is certainly starting to feel more finite, I am looking forward to the next big change.

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