Design when Change difficult

“Don’t change. Change is impossible, and even if it were possible, it is undesirable. Stay as you are. Love yourself as you are. And change, if it is at all possible, will take place by itself when and if it wants. Leave yourself alone. The only growth-promoting change is that which comes from self-acceptance.”

–Anthony de Mello


This blog post is about relaxing the obsession with changing oneself or another, which consumes and drains so much of human energy. And instead, designing, creating conditions, tending to the soil in which flowering can happen. This is often more effective. To see how it is not just inside-out but also outside-in. To realize that configuring the “environment” can be as significant, if not more, than focusing on “changing” the individual. Learning together is a vital doorway. Above all, seeing what is changeless, and designing provide the deepest leverage for creating what matters.  


I have struggled with change and learning for the longest time. Being a good coach and teacher doesn’t always make me a good student. We are often teaching what we most need to learn. I have often felt that perhaps I have a learning disability! Various life experiences including reading a beautiful book, “Delivered from Distraction” by Ed Hallowell on ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) reinforced the idea. Recently, at a gathering in Mumbai at a dear friend, Abhishek’s place who has suffered from Bipolar and masterfully dealt with it, I realised how design can be the way forward.

And of course all the well intentioned voices advising … that’s just a thought, it’s a belief, let go and fly etc etc- have some truth in it and yet, the struggle has seemed more real. Until the truth dawns fully, identification with some stories and ‘personas’ seem real. And even after, it seems the journey to be human and evolve is very worthwhile.

There has been a certain clarity about this but its time I wrote about it. Many years back the contact with Mike Jay brought forth this clarity. As I see it there are four main aspects of this seeing:

  1. Outside-In, not just Inside-Out

The popular narrative is that the outside mirrors the inside. And the real place to focus on for change is inside. Anything, however sublime, that is made into an idea or a ‘should’ reveals a shadow and misses the point. Obsessing about Inside-out misses the point.

Also, for example, the powerful idea of walking the talk tyrannizes many in the healing, coaching profession, Many years ago, I had written a post on “Letting go of walking the talk” ( which inspired a conversation that became a nice podcast, “Dancing the talk” ( by some friends in South Africa doing stellar work in the field of change.

Amongst the many great schools of Yoga, I feel Iyengar Yoga stands out as one who understands design. They use props to enable the body to gradually ease into positions that are difficult.

How beautiful it would be if we could look at change that people struggle with it and enable them in those areas where they are not gifted. In nature, fish swim, eagles fly, squirrels climb and bees gather honey. What would be like for each of us to discover what we were born to be and then effortlessly do that? And not be obsessed by having to “change”.

It is obvious that we need to attend to the roots if we want to nourish the tree. What is less obvious is that what we do to the tree, also affects the roots. The world and work of Barrett & Ken Wilber brought this beautiful metaphor of the Tree (from Get Connected)

  1. The Collective/ environment impacts the individual not just the other way round

Just like the narrative of inside-out dominates our consciousness, so does the narrative of the individual affecting the collective. I have seen that my office boy who works at my aunt’s place, my community space and my home has different behaviors in each of these spaces. The same group of facilitators behave differently in McKinsey space and differently in another context.

I have a friend who is a genius, world class holistic health professional. And another who has access to transforming the way we evolve humanity. And both of these geniuses like many others struggle deeply also. And the potential of their work is dwarfed. Each genius is also gifted a wound, a blind spot s/he needs to face and deal with. Perhaps like the metaphorical sand in the oyster which makes the pearl, though it causes a lot of pain.

And my work is to work with these beautifully gifted souls. And how difficult it is. Only next to working with Kiran, my own self who is incredibly gifted and terribly challenged soul. So it occurred to me, can we create a design that impacts the environment that these geniuses work in and hence enable flight instead of a wobble that is obvious currently. So they can continue to be themselves and not be forced to change, for its very difficult, near impossible for many of us. But as the environment shifts, they are likely to also shift because the ‘props’ enable the baby steps or even the leap.

One of my past coaches is a Sufi teacher, whose work is the Heart of Business, to bring love to small entrepreneur’s businesses, Mark Silver. Many years ago, he blessed me by saying something to the effect of. “May you find all the support, resources, people so that you can be free to manifest your purpose effortlessly by simply being yourself.” Easier said than done in a society that is obsessed with self-improvement and personal growth. And yet, this is happening for many of us, as we are discovering that we are not a ‘person’ separated from (or attached with) each other, but we are a ‘Presence’. Indeed each of us is an ecosystem that is connected with precisely what we need to dance and bring forth our song with other beings.

What we do to the brick we do to the house,– equally, what we do to the house, affects the brick, is it not? Emoto’s experiments with water show physically- how our thoughts, feelings and words affect reality. Its all about energy.

So let us pay attention to the design. The most complex things in existence to design are human relationships. Because this design requires both an orchestration and allowing emergence. Blueprint of We is a very powerful tool, process born from the work of 2 beautiful people who have had miraculous shifts by designing relationships.

  1. Learning Together & Hierarchical teaching-learning

One of the deepest needs where design is required in our current stage of evolution is the whole field of learning- which impacts healing, leadership, parenting, coaching, therapy etc. We are discovering that while the hierarchical model of the parent-child, the guru-shishya, the teacher-student, the leader-team, husband-wife member is valid, there is something else that is taking birth and needs to be embraced speedily – else we suffer.

This new way of being, requires us to hold the hierarchy lightly. The teacher needs to now learn from the student also as she teaches, the parent from the child and the leader from the team member. We are all learning to be ‘frentors’ (a friend-mentor) a term coined by my dear friend, Abhishek Thakore. “What does it mean to learn together?” is a very vital question. We came upon/ designed a learning & coaching process (in true and deep design its often not certain if it was created or co-created, ‘received’ or ‘made to happen’!) The process simply has four steps which I will write about someday in detail but for now:

a) Inquiring Silence: The coach uses (and used by) silence, deep listening and gentle questioning to evoke, invoke deeper seeing, intelligence for just 10 minutes approx.

b)  Revealing Insights: The coach and the learner dialogue where what is seen in step a) is seen with more clarity and concreteness. In this there is an authentic speaking along with other aspects.

c)  Mirroring Vulnerably: Often what emerges is also what the coach may be grappling with or has walked to a degree but the depths needs to be plumbed. The coach shares from his/her life and reality how he has dealt/is dealing with something similar.

d) Discerning Helicopter: At this stage, the coach and the learner steps out of the content (what) and looks at the process (how) of coaching and learns at a deeper level from that. Because the how contains the what and vice versa

4. Awakening & Evolution

I had written a blog post, Heal or Awaken? ( exactly 6 years back when I had the realization that awakening is not at the end of evolution. That they are actually both parallel and intertwined “paths”. Traditional awakening makes people rest in the free, non-dual space but there are some who then end the two-ness between the non-dual and the dual- the human and the being. Adyashanti expresses it beautifully,

Yes, we go to this timeless background of consciousness and awareness. Absolutely. Very liberating isn’t it? Very, very freeing; very profound and very beautiful.

And yet, if taken in and of itself, we’ve just switched sides of illusion. We’ve gone from form and time, to formlessness and timelessness, and we say: ‘Well, this one’s more true,’ because it’s more comfortable, it feels better, basically.

But the truth is only when these two collapse together – that this world of form IS the timeless, so what we call form is emptiness, it is consciousness, that’s what it is. Then, there’s no stance anymore, is there? There is no sense of ‘I have to remain as awareness’. We only have to remain as awareness if we don’t really know that this wall is awareness, that your car is awareness – once we know that, then we’re finally free, are we not?”

Rajesh Dalal, one of my dearest friends and teachers had walked intimately with J. Krishnamurti for 10 years (JK has been one of the most exceptionally awake beings who challenged the centrality of a ‘guru’). Rajesh used to share a story which my brother Rohit Sasvehalli made into a short film, ‘The Last Seed’ ( which underlines this whole dance of deep surrender.

The essential point that I am making is that awakening makes us rest in our being and walk as truth and freedom, life must be navigated in our utter human-ness. In this realm of relationships and working together, design becomes vital. There are times when deep conflict comes up with a young friend who has realised the truth, and with whom there has been great co-creation. And we are seeing how we can ‘design’ our way into deeper creations which can come through only when we truly look at workability.

In conclusion, JK talks about ‘the futility of our effort to change’. To me, until we find that effortlessness of our being and even after, design seems to be an elegant way to navigate and bring forth beautiful creations, irrespective of the peculiarities of the person. Especially when change seems to be difficult. Or near impossible.

6 thoughts on “Design when Change difficult

  1. Hi Kiran , It’s exactly in time I had to come across this Podcast . Right now I am allowing myself to make Mistakes . Have been under relations where mistakes are not Allowed . Today I feel to allow it to happen . Still to go … thank you . Regards . Kranti ( Saraswati vasudevan yoga batch ) . 2011 .

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Dear Kranti
      Thanks for sharing.
      It’s not a podcast but you probably heard it by converting to audio right?
      How did you land up here dear?
      We can speak if you want.

  2. I have grown up as well as worked with the Differently-able and have not heard a single one of them say that they have a particular condition or limitation. Its the so called ‘Able ‘ ones who keep feeding their limitations.

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