Embrace impermanence; that is my message today, and I’d like to give you a basic guide on how to embrace impermanence as a way of advancing your enjoyment of life.
“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” – Nhat Hanh.
With so many of my hypnotherapy clients, they firmly believe that nothing is changing in their life, it feels that way, seems that way, and yes for many of us, sometimes it feels as though nothing changes. Yet at other times if feels as though nothing stays the same, life is volatile and we attempt to control the uncontrollable. In truth, nothing is permanent and yet so many of us seem to be in pursuit of something as if it is (permanent). If life were to stay exactly the same, many might not see the point? Life is transient by nature, impermanent. We grow, we evolve, we embrace impermanence.
We desire to hold onto things that make us feel good, we try to make them permanent. Marriage is a classic example, we cling on to early romance instead of understanding the relationship as something developing, growing, changing. This is not offering up a recipe to the perfect marriage, but to highlight that when we embrace impermanence, we get to embrace the relationship in a different, and wonderful way. The same is true of our relationship with virtually everything else we have in our lives – our work, our roles, our friendships, ourselves….. So instead we shift our focus, and desire to simply enjoying feeling good, basking in feeling good while remaining unattached to what it is that makes you feel that way. It’s that attachment to that so often holds us back and limits us.
Once you come to accept that there is no stopping change and you may or may not be in control of that change, you learn to let go. When you recognise and stop trying to control the uncontrollable, you embrace impermanence. Truly everything and everyone is in a state of impermanence, including the people and the things you love. You are impermanent too, of course.
When you choose to let go and embrace impermanence, instead of digging in your heels and resisting, you gain an increased sense of internal stability and a clearer view, you gain perspective. Letting go is liberating. It doesn’t mean you have to settle for what you don’t want in life. It means you have the power to rise above what feels difficult or challenging. Letting go enables you to recalibrate your perspective so you can move more effectively, creatively and mindfully through your present moments.
“Awareness of impermanence and appreciation of our human potential will give us a sense of urgency that we must use every precious moment.” ~ Dalai Lama.
Here are 6 ways that you can incorporate into your life to embrace impermanence:
1. Reframe Positively:
“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.” – W. Somerset Maugham.
Life is too short to waste time desiring change, but then not stepping up to make it happen! If you want a new career, research, train, educate yourself, seek advice, get guidance and take the action steps to begin one. Want to change your attitude but think people will react differently to you? Of course they are going to! Start immediately and change your negatives to a positive, this will be the change that creates plenty of growth in your entire life! These things are a lot easier to do when you adopt a positive mindset, a progressive attitude. Here are a couple of articles to help you reframe aspects of your life positively:
a) Positive Thinking: Being Positive in the Face of Negativity.
b) Being Positive: Creating A Happiness Filter Using Self-Hypnosis.
Much of the research in positive psychology demonstrates how impermanence bolsters positive wellbeing. Living with balanced mental states, founded in impermanence, counteracts the negative cycles of rumination that many people suffer from (Wallace & Shapiro, 2006).
2. Have Realistic Expectations:
In so many of our life’s circumstances, we have high expectations for our family, career, and marriage. We expect each to remain constant and to last forever. But remember that nothing lasts forever. Nothing.
When you set reasonable expectations, and don’t expect or demand a particular outcome, you’re better able to manage any changes that do come your way. Unreasonable expectations of life, however, will likely be met with loss, disappointment, and pain.
It is good to dream big and to live big in response to those dreams, but being sober and realistic about the impermanence of it all will serve you wonderfully well. The best way I have ever encountered with regards to how to do this, is by following the Stoic negative visualization process here:
a) Using Stoic Negative Visualisation With Self-Hypnosis.
3. Start Small:
Create changes by doing things differently each and every day of your life and create an environment of change, a culture of adaptability and development. The change you bring upon yourself does not have to be big. It can be something small such as ordering a different dish off the menu, taking a new route to work, or switching up your routine at the gym. Adding something new or adjusting something in your routine helps you open the door to more potential and helps you feel more fulfilled. It also builds your confidence and your ability to embrace impermanence.
Have you ever felt really stuck in your life? Maybe you felt upset because you couldn’t get yourself out of a situation you could not control. Maybe you felt stuck or lost because you felt too comfortable and was afraid of the unknown. Change and the unknown go hand in hand. In the words of Leo Babauta, “make it so easy that you can’t say no.” So practice change and it becomes something you are skilled at and can excel and move with.
4. Accept Change:
You may even desperately try to prevent and stop change from happening in your life by trying to forge ahead even in futile situations. Instead of resisting, allow change to unfold and try to understand what’s transforming and why.
Circumstances will not turn out the way you want them to, and it’s perfectly all right. Embracing the situation can help you deal with the change effectively, make the necessary shifts in your life to embrace the change, and help you move forward after the event.
When I teach my clients and students basic mindfulness and acceptance exercises, they often begin with focusing upon the breathing and I’ll use that classic expression “watch the breath, let it happen all by itself, just observe it happening, don’t try to change it and don’t try to stop it from changing, sometimes things change just by watching them….” It encapsulates the tone of acceptance that I am writing about here in this fourth point.
5. Relish Change:
A typical example of change and the fear of the unknown is being in an unhealthy relationship. Now, you know you shouldn’t be in this relationship for whatever reason, but you stay in it anyway. Why? Fear can cripple us and cause us to stagnate (note – stagnation is also impermanent, but not necessarily in a very desirable way). It can be the fear of the unknown, fear of not being friends with that person, fear of being alone forever.
Being positive about exiting that relationship helps us accept and be positive about change. Being excited to accept something new helps it disperse more happiness into our lives. This does not mean that we simply jump out of our relationships at the first challenge, not at all, we continue to seek opportunities for it to develop and advance as much as possible, but we do not stay in it out of fear alone. We relish change, which is how we embrace impermanence.
6. Recognise You’re Growing… Stronger:
When you accept, embrace, and learn from change, you inevitably grow stronger. The ability to continuously accept change allows you to become as solid as a rock in the midst of violent storms all around you—even if you feel afraid.
Change becomes your greatest teacher, but only if you give yourself permission to learn from it. Here are a couple of excellent articles to help you with that very important point:
a) How To Learn From Failure.
b) How to Bounce Back From Being Knocked Down.
c) Owning Your Life and Being Responsible For Who You Are Today.
d) Learn To Enjoy Life’s Problems.
“Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” – Pema Chodron.
Embrace impermanence, you’ll be pleased you did.
Life does move on. Look back only to see how far you’ve come. Sure, take a moment to enjoy some nostalgia, to miss people and places, but you can’t dwell there or you run the risk of becoming a ghost yourself. The fact you are here, wherever that is for you right now, is because you have more to accomplish, more to contribute.
Dream big and feel into it, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain when you embrace impermanence.
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