• Sandy Reynolds

How to keep your heart and mind open in times of change

I saw a tweet this week that summed it up perfectly. It read, “I personally think it’s really cool how we all went from learning how to make banana bread to learning how to abolish the police in a matter of weeks.” Our social media feeds have shifted from images of creative cocooning to anti-racism protests. 

I took last week off because I didn’t want to contribute to the noise. It was time for me to break from creating content and spend some time reflecting on my own white privilege and how it shows up in my life. I’ve been reading Layla F Saad’s book, Me and White Supremacy. It’s been eye-opening. I’m learning a lot.  

Something that keeps surfacing for me right now, whether I am exploring racism or life during a pandemic, is how much I value comfort. Some of my desire for comfort comes from being a certain age. I’m always searching for the right balance between comfortable shoes and clothes and still feeling like I have style. I like comfortable furniture and don’t get me started on room temperature. 

It goes beyond clothing, though. I avoid movies or books that make me uncomfortable. I don’t want to watch anything violent or frightening. I avoid tough conversations, especially if they are political or religious. If I am honest (and I strive to be), I don’t like my ideas or beliefs being questioned or challenged. 

It’s easy to surround myself with people that align with what I already know and believe. That practice is called confirmation bias, and we can thank Google for feeding us more of what we like with sophisticated algorithms that help create a distorted view that the whole world thinks like us.

I read a great question this week in Seven Thousand Ways to Listen by Mark Nepo. He asked, “Is your sense of what’s familiar stronger than your sense of what’s good for you?” We can be so comfortable with the familiar that we overlook that it might not be good for us.

We need to strive for a balance between comfort and risk. Growth only happens when we risk or are challenged to move beyond the status quo and our own comfort. Most of us don’t change until we become so dissatisfied with the way things are in our lives or in our communities that we are no longer comfortable continuing the same way. 

I'm excited that right now many of us are recognizing a need for change. I also know that changing means doing things where we feel less confident and competent. We can get discouraged and give up. It can begin to feel like too much risk and we get overwhelmed and retreat.  Here are three considerations for you as you expand your thinking so that you can keep your heart and mind open. 

1. Share your opinions and views with other people and get comfortable with differences of opinion.  One way I try to keep pushing forward is by risking disappointing people and pushing conversations by expressing my opinion. I work at appreciating it when I’m challenged on my views. People who know my husband and I often comment about how different we are. We recognize that one of the gifts in our relationship is that we force each other to consider a different point of view. It softens us both in our politics and beliefs.

2. Pay attention when you are being pushed too far and too fast outside your comfort zone and want to retreat. If we are stretched too far, we will retreat back to the safety and security of the familiar. It takes courage to have hard conversations. It’s going to be messy. We are going to disappoint and be disappointed. Your ego will be bruised. The changes we are collectively experiencing now are significant. And the uncertainty is stressful. There is a time to bake banana bread, and there is a time to protest. We need to find a way to continue doing hard work without sacrificing our well-being. When we try to make too many changes at once, we will withdraw and lose the momentum we’ve been building. 

3. Know the difference between avoidance and comfort. Here in Southern Ontario, we are moving towards ‘opening up the economy’ (political speak for allowing businesses to open so we can get out and shop and spend money). I’ve been having conversations with many of you who have expressed that you aren’t ready to go back to the way things were. I’ve heard how being forced to physical distance has allowed you to create boundaries in relationships, and now you are struggling with having to go back to the way things were before the shutdown. Having boundaries is not the same thing as being willing to dialogue about differences. Don’t confuse the absence of conflict with the real comfort that comes from knowing that you are being honest in your relationships about your limitations and boundaries. 

These are not easy times. We have an opportunity for significant change personally and socially right now. It’s essential to pay attention to how you are feeling and listen to what you need to move forward in this next season. We need to be willing to risk our comfort. 

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