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The Only Constant in Life is Change

Updated: Feb 28

Image by Nikki Luijpers from Pixabay

We have a tendency to forget that the things we build in life are fragile, and often not meant to stand the test of time. Everything we build for ourselves is like a house upon the sand, ready to be washed away if a large enough wave comes along.

Everything in life is in a constant state of change. In Buddhism, this is referred to as impermanence. It is the idea that we expect things to last, when the reality is, everything that exists as we know it will one day fade away. This is true of careers, homes, relationships, and our very selves. One day, we too will fade away, just a memory to the people we have known and loved.

According to Lion's Roar,

Practitioners have always understood impermanence as the cornerstone of Buddhist teachings and practice. All that exists is impermanent; nothing lasts. Therefore nothing can be grasped or held onto. When we don’t fully appreciate this simple but profound truth we suffer, as did the monks who descended into misery and despair at the Buddha’s passing.

As we go through our daily lives, we often don't spend a lot of time thinking about things coming to an end, as they naturally will, eventually. We invest a lot of time, energy and effort into building things that we intend to be lasting. We tend to look at our careers, homes and relationships as a foundation for our lives.

Then, when one of these things slips away from us all of a sudden, we feel heartbroken and surprised at the loss of what we have built. Our assumption that things will last is what leads to our suffering.

“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, 2015, p. 132

We hold onto things too tightly. In Buddhism, this is referred to as clinging. The things we cling to are, by their very nature, impermanent. And yet, so often we forget the constantly changing nature of everything in our world.

If we take a step back and observe the natural world and the seasons, we realize that everything is cyclical. There is a time when we plant, a time to harvest, and the wintertime when the land rests. This cycle in nature is the same as the cycles that repeat throughout our lives.

Whatever we think of as our 'foundation' in life is much less sturdy and stale than the qualities that we typically attribute to it. We think that we will live in the same home forever. But our homes are usually made of wood, and can be destroyed through flood or fire.

Relationships are also something that we tend to think of as a foundation of our lives. We rely on the people closest to us: friends, family, partners, children and mentors. People have this tendency of saying things like "I will always be there for you." But in truth, this isn't possible. There are many intervening circumstances that prevent us from always being present when someone may need us the most.

The things we build are fragile and temporary. They are like beautiful flowers that we nurture and grow for a season, then pass away when the winter comes again. It is through these long winters in our lives that we suffer, when we feel we have lost everything that we had built for ourselves.

The harsh truth of life is that loss is truly inevitable. As the Buddha says, sickness, old age and death are truths of suffering that we must all endure. This is inescapable. Our own frailty is a part of our nature. We may endure longer than a flower, but our lives are like a blink of the eye when you step back and look at the timeline of creation.

Mindfulness and meditation help us accept Impermanence

Within Buddhism, the teaching of Mindfulness is meant to help us be present within each moment. As we feel into our mindfulness practice, and learn to be present where we are, it teaches a greater sense of acceptance in life. Noticing each sensation in each moment helps us to be more present, and to notice transitions in everything that we see, hear, think and feel.

Our thoughts pass, just as a river flows. Nature is a beautiful mirror for understanding the facts of impermanence. By spending time in nature and allowing ourselves to be truly mindful in our lives, we can come to find peace no matter what is going on around us.

According to One Mind Dharma,

You can also notice the impermanence in your daily life. There’s really no limit. Notice the cars as they pass, the wind blowing the clouds through the sky, or the arising and passing of a thought during your day. By tuning into impermanence repeatedly, you are re-training the mind to see this aspect of reality clearly. With continued practice, we no longer need to strain to see the impermanent nature of phenomena; it becomes rather obvious and apparent.

Nothing lasts forever. This realization is what will truly set your mind free of clinging, craving and suffering. By following the Buddhist 8-fold path, we allow ourselves to become free of the mindsets that are causing our suffering. Instead, we come to find acceptance and peace, even in constantly changing times that we all experience.

Here is a guided meditation for finding peace in uncertain times, that you can practice to help yourself accept the nature of impermanence in your own life.

The more we practice meditation in our daily lives, and learn to find stillness within ourselves, and release mental attachments to outcomes in our lives.

For more information about how mindfulness, meditation and yoga can help you in your daily life, check out my ebook, Practicing Buddhism in Everyday Life. Available on Kindle Unlimited or in Paperback.

Buddhism helps us learn to find inner peace and freedom. The wisdom of these ancient practices is still applicable and relevant today. There has even been scientific research into the effectiveness of Buddhist practices of mindfulness, meditation and yoga to improve your health and wellbeing.

As you begin to change your mind, and your outlook on life, you will begin to accept the constant nature of our world and our experience. When you release attachment to outcomes, it helps you find a sense of lasting peace that will get you through even the darkest of times.

This won't make you change your feelings if you are struggling, but it will allow you to see that even these difficult feelings will pass with time as well.

Let me know in the comments if you find this helpful, and what other Buddhist teachings you would like to read about in the future!

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