Finding Comfort in Impermanence

“Nothing exists in and of itself but depends on a series of causes and conditions, each one interdependent and connected to all others. This interdependence of all things makes it so that all phenomena are in a constant state of change.” HH The 14th Dalai Lama

Many religions and practices refer to impermanence as an unavoidable truth that can bring much peace. In the Bible we find several references to our impermanent nature: “Although God made man very good (Genesis 1:3 NKJV), He purposefully made him temporary (2 Corinthians 4:18 NKJV).”  And, “Each man’s life is but a breath. (Psalm 39:5 NIV).”

The Quran 20:55 (Surah Ta-Ha) states, “From the earth did We create you, and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you out once again.” Various religions actually perform meditations on death to encourage the acceptance of the fact that life does not last forever. At first it may seem as though impermanence is the monster under the bed that everybody knows is there, but nobody wants to look at.

We don’t like to thinkabout the end: the end of our relationships, the end of our job, the end of our vacation, or the end of our life. How could contemplating these endings bring us any comfort?Like most monsters under the bed, the fear of impermanence will grow and grow until weactually stop and look at it. When we peek under the bed to stare the monster in the face, we come to findthat it is in fact just a long-lost teddy bear. Impermanence is not a monster to hide from, but a friend to embrace.

Impermanence can help ushandle difficult emotions. When we realize that every emotion will eventually transform into another one,we can allow them to exist without battling against them. They rise and fade away without usclinging to one or pushing another away. Emotions become a burden when we see them as permanent. When we are experiencing a positive emotion, we mayexperience anxiety because we fearlosing that good sensation. When we feel a negative emotion,the belief that it will always be there leaves us feeling hopeless and defeated. Accepting that all emotions, good or bad, will always endcan help us to appreciate the positive ones while they are here andsitin peacewith the negative ones,knowing that they will eventually pass.

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