Impermanence is everywhere and it always has been. Nothing is certain, it never has been.
I started writing about generosity and gratitude but I couldn’t find my groove with it. I realized it’s a topic I want to share about but I’m not in that place right now, so I’ll circle back. In the meantime, if you are participating in acts of generosity during this personal distancing, everyone is laid off or grinding it out, wtf is happening? time shoot me an email and tell me about it. I’m looking for no-low cost, minimal effort.
Without further ado, let’s talk about impermanence. Although I clearly know what this word means, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really started acknowledging it’s essence. I was telling a friend about how Rob and I were doing really well after a period of not seeing eye-to-eye on things and she said, “one word, impermanence.” I was taken aback and my face tells all, why would she say that to me? Why would she basically be telling me my happiness wasn’t going to last? Going on about what seems so obvious but isn’t something we want to accept when times are good, she said, “Jeanie, just like you got through that rough patch, you will get through this bliss, so enjoy it.” I will remember that night, sitting in her car outside of my house, for the rest of my life, because that brief conversation changed how I experience each moment. When things are feeling really grueling, I find comfort in knowing that it won’t last forever. When things are really good, I honor the gift of the moment. I breathe it in, I take mental snapshots, I study my surroundings, I study the faces of whomever I am sharing that moment with. I engage all of my senses knowing just how special that moment is on my journey.
Of course, my dive into impermanence did not end with that conversation. Before long I started to attend Refuge Recovery, a program based on Buddhist principles. The following is from the program’s literature:
“Humanity’s self-centered craving and fear-based mentality is not the fault of the individual. It’s not personal; it’s just part of being human…but it is our responsibility to find a balance…
All sensations, emotions, sounds, smells, tastes, sights, thoughts, feelings, moods, experiences, and [the dynamics of our] relationships are impermanent…
Nothing lasts, nothing is constant, nothing is permanent – just the rising and passing of phenomena in the body…
Once we stop looking for happiness in impermanent things, we begin to find an internal source of happiness that is not dependent on or addicted to circumstances.”
Buddhism also has a lot to say about attachment. In Sanskrit, the word for attachment is the same word for “clinging” and “grasping”. Okay, maybe I’m getting too deep and Buddhism isn’t your jam but the point is, we get attached to ideas, circumstances, and outcomes. We do everything we can to control circumstances because we believe our happiness rides on the outcomes, so we cling to and grasp at the formulas, behaviors, life plans, or careers that we believe will create the happiness in our lives that we seek.
I am not a Buddhist, by any stretch, but I do think we can all learn by observing these spiritual practices. How does this all tie into the pandemic and the grief we are all feeling (or denying)? Well, the circumstances and feelings are impermanent and it’s in our best interest to detach from our old lives. We can reflect on the way things used to be and appreciate what we loved, but chasing something that was always going to change will lead to suffering. A new normal will be constructed and we can bask in the beauty of each moment of connection because we now know what it’s like for it to disappear overnight.
If you are someone who’s identity, self-worth or self-value was constructed on your profession and earning potential, which is now threatened or even gone, I recognize that this time is extra hard and you might be shaking your fist at me, thinking this is unfair or doesn’t apply. The fear of groundlessness can be overwhelming but try to consider that we are all being called to reevaluate our foundations and perceptions. And remember, everything is changing and shifting all the time, impermanence tells us that you felt on top once and you’ll feel on top again, it just might look different.