Reflection Exercise on Responding to Change/Impermanence

Everything we are doing on the Living the Awakened Heart Training Course relates to developing the confidence to be able to be more sensitive in our behaviour and attitudes to ourselves and others.

Kindliness, friendliness, care and generosity create the conditions in which our fundamental quality of sensitivity can flourish and express itself freely.  Gradually, through developing confidence in the fundamental qualities of openness and awareness, we will find that the ‘trying’ is replaced by spontaneous responses from the natural goodness of our hearts.

Sensitivity can become very refined in response to change, which is happening every moment as one experience gives way to the next.  The heightened awareness that emerges through focusing on the dynamic of change feels very awake and alive.

Sometimes we experience change as a big disappointment.  When the change is welcome we turn towards it with delight and interest.  When we are holding onto a preconceived idea of a situation, instead of turning towards the change with open-ended interest, we may try to hold onto the past.  The clinging and the denying emerge from our sensitivity and responsiveness, but the responsiveness has become distorted into reaction, counter-action and strategies to protect ourselves from the reality of change.  In the end this closing-off reaction is unsuccessful, because change is inevitable.  It is inevitable but not necessarily bad news.

When we try to block off or try to fix our experience so that we do not have to respond to change, it is because we have decided that it is going to disturb our sense of well-being.  By turning towards situations in an open way our natural sensitivity forces us to respond rather than react.  Whereas a reaction is a kind of fixed strategy, a response is fresh and spontaneous.  A reaction follows a pre-conditioned pattern, a response is open ended.  If the situation suddenly changes, the response changes automatically without any feeling of having been ‘caught out’ or ‘caught napping’.  It is like a dance, fun and full of lightness and laughter.  Sensitivity and responsiveness are the opposite of trying to ‘fix’ or solidify experience.

When we do not try to fix or control our experience, there can be a scary feeling of not knowing what will happen next.  Actually this is a very awake quality, even though at first we may feel very exposed and vulnerable, like a new-born infant.  The rawness of having no fixed destination or strategy, is pure sensitivity.

Reflection Exercise:

Notice moments when you have a strong impulse to deny, resist or try to ignore change.  For example, when you see grey hairs or wrinkles in the mirror, when your new car gets scratched, when your children grow up and want to leave home.  Instead of trying to ignore or shut off the experience, stay with the feeling and let there be a gap or a space for that feeling to spread into.  Out of that gap or space perhaps a more appropriate response can arise.

When we are awake and prepared for change we can respond smoothly and easily, but if we go to sleep and take things for granted, we are suddenly woken up.  We get a very strong burst of intense sensitivity that can be a wonderful reminder or trigger of awareness.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

This is an excerpt from the Sensitivity book in the Living the Awakened Heart Training programme – the structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at