The comment by penuflection to my Development of Conscience post reminded me of something I read a couple of years ago: “Willed change is not real. Only unwilled change is real”. It is a Sufi saying, that I read in The Story of Ruth by Joan Chittister, page 18.
So many people are going through unwilled changes right now. These monumental experiences often result in dramatic changes to our beliefs and outlook on life. You can’t help but think about them. Changes like this force you to pay attention to them, to think, and to question whether you really are who you have always thought you have been. You become mindful because you have to.
I think that willed change can also be real, but that it takes more intention and awareness to grow from willed change than from unwilled change: a conscious choice to be mindful. It also requires an openness to unexpected results. Choosing to accept a new job that requires moving across the country may be a willed change, but there will surely be unanticipated – and thus unwilled – changes as well. What happened after penuflection took Ecstasy is what made me think of this.
What unwilled change does for us, far moreso than willed change, is remove some of the restrictions that had been in our life. When you make a willed change, you decide whether to do so in the context of your current life conditions. You seek that change and go to it. Unwilled change has no regard for context – it comes to you. So, when unwilled change happens, we have different options than we did before. We aren’t subject to the usual expectation of maintaining consistency with our past. This is often difficult, overwhelming and confusing and can be frightening, but it is also an opportunity, to do things you would never have taken the chance on doing, and to grow in ways – spiritual, emotional, psychological – that you would not have grown, had your life conditions remained the same.