The Impermanence of It All
“Change is constant.” It’s not a new thought, yet, it is one of those life lessons that I have no problem letting go of from time to time. We want things to stay the same. We like our routines. We become uneasy when something out of the ordinary enters our life. A vast number of changes can throw us for a loop. However, here are a few that might sound familiar.
- When a loved one dies
- When our partner or spouse announces that he/she would like a divorce
- Having accomplished a big goal like running and completing the Boston Marathon
- Coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender
- Hearing that one of your loved ones is GLBT
- Starting a new endeavor (business, project)
- Being a ballplayer who, normally an impeccable fielder, makes two errors in one game
We are not stagnant beings; we are always growing and always changing, from year to year, day to day and moment to moment. Truly, we are impermanent creatures, as is everything else around us. And although this impermanence of life is quite fascinating from a theoretical perspective, from a pragmatic perspective, it drives most of us a little crazy! We grow to like our routines. We like knowing what to expect. I once had a supervisor who told me, “I don’t like surprises!” I totally understand this thinking. This is how many of us respond when change rears its head. We act surprised, shocked and befuddled. Yet, I am beginning to question why we do this. Doesn’t the mere fact that we expect life to stay exactly as it is set us up to suffer in the long run?
In other words, isn’t a great deal of our suffering simply a result of resisting change (whether it be positive or negative)? I have been guilty of this. I have resisted the growth and change of a friendship/relationship. Who’s to say if the change was for the better? My resistance did nothing but create tension within me and the relationship.
I have also resisted when I knew in my heart that it was time to leave a job. I was miserable and complaining all the time, yet the concept of leaving, changing, and throwing my world upside down did not entice me. The result was I resisted and created suffering. Likewise, many of us have resisted injury and illness, delaying treatment and downtime until we are forced to stop in our tracks. Sometimes, these delays cause more damage than the initial injury itself.
The funny thing is that we have a belief that these changes come out of nowhere. When in reality, life is changing all the time. I can go to the gym one day and feel like I am on fire and a phenomenal athlete, and then I can go the next day and feel like the largest slug slithering the planet! Raise your hand if you have ever experienced this!
Impermanence is all around us. The seasons change. Night turns into day and day turns into night. One day it’s storming, the next day it is sunny and clear. Children grow up. People grow older. People move away. Our loved ones get busy with life and don’t have time to call. The Internet was invented and now we all hang out on Facebook, Twitter and God knows what else. Our cellphone coverage goes out. We heal from major losses and a broken bone heals itself. We make new friends. New opportunities arise. Our breath is different in every moment; sometimes, we breathe deeply, while other times, a whisper of a breath is all our bodies require.
My message is this. Embrace change. It will happen. It’s always happening. I think the more we befriend change, the happier we will be. We will be expecting things to change. When you expect life to not be constant, you are more welcoming of change. You don’t resist it. You accept it and may even embrace it.
There is impermanence whether we like it or not. So, it seems to me that it is in all of our best interests to learn to surf and ride the waves as they come instead of trying to stop the waves from happening.
The Indiana University Baseball team is what I am sharing with all of you today. From my perspective, their story is truly inspiring. They are heading into the NCAA tournament this weekend. These team members are beautiful to watch — and not just for their athleticism. It’s bigger than that. This team as well as their coach, Tracy Smith, embody the concept of Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is! They appear to meet the challenge of performance and competition with confidence. Having been an athlete and a sports enthusiast most of my life, I have seen many athletes and many teams, but I have never witnessed before what I am seeing in these young men. They know that they are not perfect: they will strike out, the pitcher will walk someone, players will stumble when they are fielding a ground ball and not be able to make the play. However, they appear to perceive the bumbles, the striking out, the errors made as simply part of their game. They don’t seem to beat themselves up as a result of making a mistake. They experience every moment, allow all the moments (the ones when they are at their best and those when they falter) to occur because it appears as if they know that these are all a natural part of life; they simply move on to play the game that they love. I have seen this in individuals, but to see this in a group as a whole, especially as young as they are, is a treat to observe. I wish them well in the NCAA tournament and in life. I believe that they will all be successful because they define success for themselves. Truly beautiful!
I happened to write the above before the beginning of the NCAA tournament. All of the above is still accurate. However, the Hoosiers are human like the rest of us, and it appeared as if their lizard brains came out to play in the first round of the tournament. It is unfortunate to say that they did not move on. They were a special team. I believe that the closer they came to the reality that this might be the last time all these guys play together, the more their grief set in. Regardless of the outcome, this is a special group of guys who play and live in such a way that embodies living with your whole heart, or what Brené Brown calls “wholehearted living!”
It seems that when we speak about change or our fear of change, we are really talking about our fear of uncertainty. We don’t like uncertainty. We want to make our lives predictable. However, that is not life. Learning how to embrace uncertainty and risk can be one of the best gifts that we give ourselves. This Ralph Marston video states beautifully why embracing change and uncertainty can be in our best interests.
Until next time,
Safe Space Life Coaching