How to Embrace Impermanence

“Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” – Pema Chödrön 

As we are in or approaching fall, it is a perfect time to revisit the topic of impermanence. Wikipedia says that impermanence is “ known as the philosophical problem of change…” and I find the word “problem” to be an interesting choice. It reflects our cultural & societal fear of change and unhealthy attachment to the way things are…most of the time.

Another definition is simply, impermanence means nothing lasts forever in its current state. This concept is really soothing when times are tough. We know that heartache from love and loss won’t last, in its intensity, forever. We know that a crappy day will come to an end. We know that a bad haircut will grow out. Kids beg for the school year to end for summer and then they are excited to go back to school in the fall. 

In neutral ways, we experience impermanence through the weather, from day to night and back to day, the four seasons, etc.

Sweater Weather Reaction GIF

We know that this is nature, in perfect harmony. We don’t judge it, and we tend to even excitedly embrace what we love about each season without morning the loss of the previous season. We recognize that change isn’t inherently good or bad, it just is, and we are okay with that. But what about when things are good???

We tend to HATE impermanence when things are good! We become attached to that good state and measure our success on maintaining bliss, denying the very law of impermanence. When we are getting along with our partners we make it mean that we have a healthy relationship, when we have another disagreement that means we’ve somehow failed. I also see this show up in my clients with their personal or spiritual development. When they’ve finally made some major shifts and experienced some wins, it doesn’t take long for them to start strategizing on how to GRASP that moment forever. 

The reality is, we don’t get to hold on to anything forever, at least not the way that we are experiencing it now. And if we struggle with this as adults which causes us suffering, how on earth are we able to help our kids through their fears of impermanence?

Well, my friends, I have some pointers for you AND your cubs!

  1. There is an awesome book by Leo Buscaglia called The Fall of Freddie The Leaf. You can watch it narrated on YouTube, this is such a great story about embracing impermanence and death. It is for all ages, but watch it yourself first to be prepared for any questions it might spawn. 
  1. Have a conversation with yourself and your kids about impermanence. The following are a few prompts to help with this chat, most I snagged from Middle Way Education.
    • What sorts of things change? Are changes good or bad?
    • What has changed in you since you were born?
    • Why do things change?
    • What would it be like if things did not change at all?
    • Is there anything that does not change?
    • Is there a part of you that never changes, never dies? (refer to the unending nature of mind)
    • In what ways is change a beautiful thing?
  1. Use impermanence as a way to practice being in the present moment. Mindfully allow it to make the sweet that much sweeter, rather than mindlessly pushing you into a fear or scarcity mindset. You really won’t need to do this one with kids all that much, because typically when kids are having fun they are VERY present, but each kid is different so use at your discretion. 

Have a great week! I’m off to the mountains to see the autumn leaves before winter comes! 😉