It is said ‘a leopard cannot change it’s spots’ and there are certain things a person will not be able to change about themselves. However, it is also said that change is the only constant for everything, everywhere is constantly changing.

According to a set of data on human body shape and variety there are only three basic categories. The study which concentrated on the male human form found that pretty much all categories of body shape fit into either; tall and slim, average height and muscular or small and round. This is actually my own, not very accurate terminology for the three basic categories of which there are numerous variations. The point being made here is that there are some things that can’t be changed. A tall thin man may put on weight and grow fatter, or may work out and become more muscular, but will always retain the basic frame of a tall thin man and never be the shape of a small fat man. Some things are fixed or relatively constant but there are other things like personality, character or awareness that can and do change.

After living many years of what is for most a fundamentally routine life it is easy to think that we are who we are and cannot be any different. There are some who will attempt to change their lives for the better, this could mean physical or spiritual change, or both. There will be times for these people when their attempts at change will seem all too much as they continually slip back into their long established routines. At these times they may think to themselves it’s because I am who I am and therefore cannot change. What they mean by this is that they think of themselves as a fixed personality much like the basic body shape is fixed. However if they think deeply enough about this question they will discover there is no such thing as a fixed personality. Spiritual change (one’s ability to change one’s ideas, awareness, outlook on life etc.) is embedded into one’s personality (self) just as physical change is embedded into one’s body (we call it ageing). So we cannot be a fixed self (identity/personality) when change is a fundamental trait or characteristic of the self. Why then does spiritual change seem to require so much effort?

The second most important thing in life is to start on the journey of enlightenment; the most important thing in life is to finish it.

Time and time again I am reminded of the faults and failings within my own spiritual development. But this is ok, I am not going to give up and stop trying to progress along the spiritual road simply because I recognise I have failed once more. The opposite is in fact true so that whenever I recognise a failing I endeavour to correct or add to that area of my life that is found wanting. Indeed I can be grateful that I am at a stage in my development where I do not try to ignore, avoid or act negatively toward my conscience when circumstances arise to reveal my failings (need for additional development and progress). 

Two recent incidents have made me aware that I am holding onto a level of introversion that I really need to get beyond. There is no doubt that I sit firmly in the camp of the introverted and not the extroverted. However there are clearly different levels of introversion just as there are variations of a basic body shape. Sometimes I hold back and restrict my engagement with others when it would be far more beneficial for my relationships if I engaged more openly, honestly and bravely.

We were recently paid a visit by a couple of old friends, they were accompanied by their daughter and her children. The daughter was English born but her children are French born and they had travelled with their mum from France to have a holiday in England with their Grandparents. Two of the children were teenage boys, they could both speak English but unsurprisingly would prefer to speak French which is their native tongue. I didn’t attempt to converse with the lads in french as my french is very limited but I should have! I could tell the boys felt sidelined in a room of english speaking adults and so talked only amongst themselves in french. I am sure if I had made an attempt to engage with the lads at their level using their language they would have reciprocated and joined in with the rest of us.

My wife, daughter and I recently had a day out in Southwold. We were heading for the pier when it started to rain. There was a gift shop on the pier which we ran into to take shelter from the rain. The shop assistant glanced at us as we entered but instead of engaging in polite conversation and asking if he minded us taking shelter I tried to not make eye contact. It was obvious we were not there to buy anything and after a few minutes when the rain was dying down we left. On the way out the shop assistant raised his voice in a sarcastic tone and said thank you! I felt a little offended but also a little ashamed that I had entered the store and made no attempt at engaging with the assistant. I saw no harm in using the shop to take shelter from the rain but should have at least said, ‘do you mind if we come in for a few moments’, instead of saying nothing. I think the man had every reason for showing contempt toward me.

Striking a balance between introversion and extroversion is key

Change isn’t always easy but sometimes necessary if we want to make the world a better place by becoming better people. Change means removing ourselves from our comfort zone. Positive change is possible when we open ourselves up to the way others relate and respond to us, especially when that response is negative. We are more often than not the cause of a negative response toward us. At these times we shouldn’t get angry or reciprocate in like manner but understand that someting about ourselves is being revealed. It’s almost as if everything out there (the universe) is like a mirror to our souls. If we are on the road to enlightenment and if we are clever we will read every situation as the universe (or God) speaking to us, encouraging, commending and correcting us.