Embracing Change

In much of the Northern Hemisphere, all we need to do is look out the window right now to experience the beauty of change. The air is crisp, the mosquitos have wound down their annual season of assault, and the leaves are showing off their glorious fall colors. Perhaps it’s because we have a lifetime’s worth of evidence that spring will come again that we can ease into these seasonal changes. So how do we bring this same sense of ease to the changes that are not so predictable or so pleasant?

The Buddha called impermanence one of the three distinguishing marks of existence. Meaning, to deny the reality of change is a set-up for suffering 100% of the time. It’s a twist of irony that human beings are (as far as we know!) the only mammals that are conscious that we will someday die. Yet we’ve evolved to increasingly deny this knowing, and on some level believe we might be able to strategize or engineer our way around it. Just the other day I only half-jokingly mused that because my dog Violet is so perfect, maybe we should take a DNA sample and clone her after she dies.

So how do we learn to shift our perspective from “hold on at all costs” to one of “let go and let flow?” It might begin with getting comfortable with not-knowing. When we’re in a hold-on mindset, we’re believing on some level that our desired outcome is the best outcome. That we could possibly predict and understand all the interwoven complexities of any one situation is indeed the unique hubris of humans. Can we accept that, even though life does require us to make decisions and choices regularly, what comes after that is largely a crap shoot? Can we practice letting go of outcomes, resting in the vast space of letting it flow? Our mindfulness and formal meditation practices offer a lot of opportunities to experience up-close the suffering that comes from holding on, and the freedom that comes from exhaling and releasing our grip.

One helpful suggestion is to practice “zooming out” our perspective so that all changes – the pleasant, the unpleasant, and the typically unnoticed – are experienced as simply the truth of how things are. This doesn’t mean that we won’t experience real pain at the loss of a loved one, but that that pain might be received within a larger field of awareness, one that binds us at the heart with others who grieve. Other changes like children growing up and leaving home, or moving into retirement, may be positive, but also throw us into the unknown. Can we, as Pema Chodron so wisely suggests, practice staying with the edgy experience of groundlessness for one and a half seconds more than we could yesterday? When we do, we experience the whole truth of what it means to be alive. Both the ebb, and the flow.

Prayer for Another Sunday
by Sharron Crowson

For all that changes
Seasons, a glad morning,
Sliver of moon, red sun
Give thanks

For all that changes
Silence, shifting clouds,
Squabbling jays, white iris
Give thanks

For all that changes
Wind sound of the bay
Cut grass, cheeky squirrels
Give thanks

For all that changes
The everyday heart
The mind of questions
Give thanks

For all that changes
Is everything we have
All we want all we are
Give thanks
For all that changes.


We are grateful for your dana (generosity)

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