Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Embracing Impermanence

by Jen Perry

I remember a time in my late twenties when I caught myself saying for the upteenth time to someone, "Well, I'm in a transition period ..." and it occurred to me that I had been saying that for almost the past decade of my life! The energy with which I was using the phrase implied that I was in a state of suspension - that my life hadn't settled yet, hadn't really started yet. This underlying stance stood in basic denial of the fact that life is basically one continuous transition. Nothing that is alive is unchanging. Some transitions are relatively small and occur regularly ~ night into day, day into night ~ noise into silence, one breath into the next. Some transitions are very big and only occur once or maybe twice in a lifetime: graduations, marriages, births, deaths. There are a million transitions in-between. Daily, monthly, seasonally, yearly.

Where do you land in relationship to all of life's transitions? What are your underlying beliefs about them?

If you're like my younger self, there may be an underlying assumption that life should, at some point, stop being so transitional: that it should steady out, become a bit more unchanging.

It's natural that if that is your underlying assumption, the evidence in life it isn't true may be ... frustrating, overwhelming, scary, some sign that you are doing this life thing WRONG.

Many, many people struggle with change: don't like it, don't want it, and are frankly terrified of most of it. And yet, if we look around us, in our own lives, the lives of those around us, and to nature, change is indeed the only constant. In mindfulness, we call this impermanence.

Cultivating an accepting and appreciating attitude towards change or impermanence has been one of the most powerful and life-enhancing endeavors I have undertaken. It isn't easy, but we as humans are known for being able to do hard things once we set ourselves to it. There is an aspect of refusing to accept change that is entirely at odds with reality. As the saying not so gently goes: Let go or be dragged!

There is an old parable told in many cultures about a king who challenged his sage to find a magical ring in six months time. This ring, he said, had the power to make him happy when he was sad and sad when he was happy. The sage couldn't find the magical ring anywhere and as his deadline approached he went to one last jeweler to ask about the ring. This jeweler was quite wise and while he admitted that he had never heard of such a ring he took a plain gold band and inscribed on it This Too Shall Pass. The sage immediately felt the truth in the saying and took the ring confidently back to his king.

This knowledge and acceptance of change, of transitions, of impermanence can have a mercifully gentle quality to it. It urges us to fully savor and be present to the ordinary joys of every day while comforting us through difficult seasons of life.  It is a reminder to pay attention to joy, and that hard times and difficult moods, no matter how sharp and painful, do pass. We need this ring, this reminder, because it is part of our biology that memories are mood-congruent. When we are angry, or sad it is very difficult, if not impossible, to recall memories or times that were not so.  To be able to loosen our grip on how we think life "should" be it makes it easier to appreciate small joys even in the midst of great difficulty. This realization and acceptance of impermanence is what truly turns transitions into transformations, challenges into opportunities for growth,  and life experience into wisdom.

To implement this work into your life, I'd like to offer you this - when you realize you are in this space of a transition into the unknown, accept that nothing is permanent. You can then gracefully move into the conscious awareness that in this very space, there is room for a deeper soul transformation. A chance for personal growth, turning your life experiences into sage wisdom.

To learn more about Jen Perry, MA, MSEd, LPC [insert link to http://theresiliencycenter.com/practitioner/perry-jen/], please call 215-292-5056, email jen@heartfulnessconsulting.com, or visit www.heartfulnessconsulting.com

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