The Buddha taught about impermanence and our lack of control. He tells us that impermanence is an inescapable fact of life, but I am not sure that anyone was listening.
Everything changes. Everything. Nothing is permanent. Yet, we live our lives as if things will last forever. We become attached to people, to situations, to possessions, and then when they change, as they WILL, we resist the changes and cause ourselves to suffer.
Our thoughts change, our feelings change, our opinions change, our behaviors change. People change throughout their lifetime. Work environments change. Relationships change. The weather changes. Our possessions wear out or break or become worn down. Our bodies age and tire and show signs of being lived in. Nothing lasts forever whether it is good or bad.
Many times, in response to all of the change, we cling more tightly. We dig in. We try everything we can to hold on to things just as they are. We get angry, disappointed, sad, and indignant. We focus on, almost obsessively, what it will or would be like when what we are grasping is gone and that causes us to miss out on being with it in this moment. We get caught up in the story we are telling ourselves about how bad it will be before it even happens. And in doing that, we fail to acknowledge the emotions we are experiencing and to allow ourselves to just feel what we feel. We fail to allow ourselves to live through it.
We fret, we worry, we resist. We resist the fact that everything changes even though truly everything changes. We cling out of desperation and not knowing. And in doing all of this, we are making ourselves unhappy. We react this way out of fear. As a therapist, I see so many examples of how people react out of fear. We are afraid of what we do not know and change always brings uncertainty. We may not necessarily always like things the way they are, but we at least know what to expect. We also fool ourselves by living in that “it will never happen to me” mindset. As if we will live forever and everything will go just as it always has and when this turns out to be untrue, we tell ourselves that we can’t handle it.
In yoga, the ethical teachings called the Yamas address this. Two have come to mind for me as I have been teaching in the past week. One is Aparigraha or “non-clinging”, “non-possessiveness”. It teaches that we must practice trusting life and letting go of our expectations of all things- possessions, people, experiences- to be more content in our lives. Aparigraha warns us that what we possess will possess us as we become obsessed with clinging and attempting to control that which no one has control over. The other is that of Asteya or “non-stealing” and it teaches us to not steal from ourselves and the opportunities in this moment by focusing on the past or the future. This stealing can also come in the form of limiting ourselves and “stealing” from who we could become by trying to force things to stay as we want them to be rather than to trust that things are going to go the way that they should.
We cause ourselves to suffer when we fight against what already is. If we can remind ourselves about this law of impermanence in the good times, we can savor every moment and form happy memories to recall later. In the painful times, we can remember that “this too shall pass” and have hope that things will improve.
Reminding ourselves of this is our responsibility. We can have support, but WE have to do the work. This is an inner transformation and when it’s done, we can experience things very differently. We can learn to trust enough to be in the moment and to deal with whatever comes at us. And who knows, it may even be better on the other side.
In the coming week, try to remind yourself that nothing lasts forever, whether you are experiencing joy or pain. Try to notice how you are stealing from the joy you could be experiencing in this moment or limiting yourself. See if you can hold on loosely and trust that the Universe knows what it is doing. If you can do that, in the end, you will be able to say that you authentically lived your life and experienced as much as you could.
I will be trying right along with you.
Talk again soon,