The More Things Change, The More They Change (And That’s Okay)
I have had the supreme pleasure of writing about mindfulness and gratitude for the last year for Hilltown Families, and I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time each month to read my (imperfect) thoughts on these practices that mean so much to me. But as one of the main tenets of Buddhism is the concept of impermanence, or, as I like to joke, the more things change, the more they change, I find myself changing as well, and as I embark on new writing endeavors and wrap up a few in the process, I am now writing my final post for this website. Since this is a post that marks a transition, it seems only fitting that it focus on impermanence, and how through mindfulness, we can find much value in not only understanding change, but the truth and profundity of the deeper impermanence all around us.
“Whatever has the nature of arising has the nature of ceasing.” – Buddha (from the Kimsuka Sutta). Understanding that there is a fundamental impermanence with all things is one of the central tenets of Buddhism, and mindfulness meditation is a key place to practice and deepen our ability to lean into the sometimes discomforting concept of impermanence, when so much of our self might want to cling to our belief in the opposite. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to acknowledge the impermanence everywhere, or that clinging to false permanence to feel safe can actually blunt our emotions or leave us blindingly frustrated, as any mother (like cough, cough, me) who is forced to watch one small child undo five hours of cleaning in all of five minutes can testify to. We can’t control the impermanence of a clean house (believe me, I’ve tried) but we can learn to understand why we feel frustrated, and we can practice learning to let go (believe me, I’m trying!).
There are many ways you can focus on impermanence during mindfulness meditation. A few of my favorites include focusing and reflecting on your breath as you breath in and out. You could consider how no breath is the same, how the air being breathed in and out is moving and changing, and so on. If you’ve got plenty of dust in your house like I do, you could even reflect on how your breathing changes the flow of the dust in the air, and even as you are sitting still, the air around you is in constant motion. You can take that to the next level by reflecting on the impermanence of our thoughts as we watch them come and go like bubbles in our mind as we sit and breath, or how our bodies change throughout a moment, a day, and a lifetime. And if you want to get really macro, and very existential, you can reflect about your own impermanence as a mortal being, and the impermanence of all those around you (it isn’t as morbid as it sounds).
In each of these exercises what we are doing is recognizing the presence of impermanence in our lives at every level, and not running away from our relationship to it. When we know something cannot last, we can appreciate it and learn not to take it for granted. When we really reflect on the finiteness of our lives, we can learn to value the moments and the breaths that we are given. We can even learn to cherish our dirty house. And perhaps most importantly from my practice, we can learn to be grateful for what we have in the moment we are in and the very basic, very enormous joy of simply being alive, which seems like a good place to begin and end.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy is a freelance writer and digital communications specialist who has lived in Western Massachusetts for the last ten years. The mother of two young daughters, Amy is a frequenter of coffee shops and bookstores, and an avid hiker. She is a long-time student of mindfulness meditation, and loves nothing more than a good friend, a good book, or a good nap.