The Challenge of Change: Are you the River or the Rock?


~ Lao Tzu

With the new year well under way, it’s interesting to see how many people are intentionally trying to initiate change in some area(s) their life while, at the same time, resisting it in others. Right now, many people are flocking to the gym with a desire (resolution) to get fit–and that sort of change is a wonderful thing. Yet, at the same time, change may be happening in some other area of their life where they don’t really welcome it, such as a job or lifestyle change which may be perceived as a bad thing. It is a paradox with which we have all danced. The point is, if we learn to work proactively with the  energy of change we’ll enjoy the dance far more.

Do you perceive change as friend or foe? Of course, the answer depends on the change. From a universal perspective, change is the only constant; it is manifesting 24/7 whether we like it or not. Whether welcome or unwelcome, we can harness the energy of change and use it  to our advantage by shifting our perspective. It seems that we suffer  when change happens where we don’t really want it to, or, conversely, doesn’t happen where we really want it to occur. What if we could re-frame our understanding of the dynamic energy of change?
What if we could welcome it as a gift the Universe is bestowing upon us, trusting change happens when it is supposed to? What if we could
surrender to this universal impulse to expand and go with its flow rather than trying to resist or manipulate it?

The key is to understand that regardless of whether we are consciously invoking change in our lives or resisting it, we are dealing with the
same dynamic universal principle and it is an energy which is totally impartial to our wants, needs and desires. We can choose to see change
as an ally or an enemy and it will respond accordingly. We can learn how the dynamic of change works and align with it in a manner which
serves us in healthy, life-affirming ways or we can stay stuck…pushing against it. The downside to resisting change is that it will have its way; it will eventually wear us out. It has been said  that in a contest between a river and a rock the river always wins. Why? Because the river is willing to follow the natural call of gravity, going over, under, around or, eventually, through the rock, to its destiny which, as with all water, is to ultimately merge with the ocean. The rock is stuck where it is, relentlessly pushing against the river, resisting the natural flow of water until, over a long enough period of time, it’s worn down to a pebble. If you ever visit the Grand Canyon you’ll see that this is true.

The metaphor of the rock and the river is delightfully obvious: The river represents “us” when we are conscious of our oneness with the Universe and willing to trust the call of gravity, “going with the flow” of life without trying to force or manipulate it. From a spiritual perspective, gravity represents the silent call of the Beloved One wooing us to come closer–to surrender to the journey that is ours to take; the unfolding of who we have come here to be…and to  do it with grace and ease. The rock represents the past and our  attachment to it; the rock symbolizes our resistance to change and fear of the unknown. The ocean to which the river flows represents a life fulfilled in our oneness with something larger than us; it’s our merging with the Source from which we came. Surrendering to, and going with, the natural flow of the river called ‘change’ is how we reach the fulfillment of a life worth living.

The power in this metaphor is that, if we are fully awake, everyday when we get out of bed, we can choose whether we will be the rock or the river. I spent many years being the rock–resisting or trying to manipulate change in just about every area of my life–most likely because I didn’t trust life or the unknown. Over the years I have studied change and made it my friend; I have learned how trust and surrender to the flow of life. Why? Because it brings with it what I value so much; a deep sense of inner peace. I still have work to do, but nowadays I am the river more often than the rock. When I release my need to control and trust the flow I sleep more soundly, I think more clearly, and I love my life more fully, including those in it.

The question I leave you to ponder is, are you the river or the rock? And if you find you are being a rock today, what might you be clinging to? Where in your life might you be resisting change or trying to force it to happen before its time? The practice is to take a deeeeeep breath, trusting and knowing that the river knows where it is going and let go. You’ll be amazed how embracing change will ‘change’ your life.

Dennis Merritt JonesDennis Merritt Jones has been involved in the human potential movement and the field of spirituality for the majority of his life as a teacher, author and keynote speaker. His most recent award winning book is “The Art of Uncertainty ~ How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It.” Jones is also the award winning author of “The Art of Being ~ 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life” and “How to Speak Science of Mind.” Dennis writes a free weekly MindfulPurpose E-Message available through his website,, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post.

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