The Magic of Impermanence



{Latest sketchbook entry}

It was Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who once said, “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”  Many years ago, I had this quote taped above my desk at my job, and I’d sort of forgotten about it until recently. Last week it felt like everything was going wrong. Of course, I’m exaggerating here. Really, only one big thing was going wrong and maybe several small things. Maybe you are like this too, but even when my problems are relatively small, it is so easy to fall into the pit of everything is horrible and also if only things would go this other way instead and spending time planning how can I change my life so that nothing horrible ever happens to me again? 

Lately I have come back to the idea of impermanence as a source of comfort: that nothing, nothing ever stays the same. While there may have been a time in my life with the idea of change made me uncomfortable, it’s become the thing, of late, that helps me to breathe. When I’m stuck in a cycle of feeling upset about something, I remind myself, “This is not forever.” No feeling or situation, no matter how awful, lasts forever. Things shift and change, and most of the time, they work out just fine (remember this?).

When I reflect on impermanence, it also helps me to remember to stay engaged. It’s so easy for me to get caught up the in struggle, which leads to distraction, which sometimes leads to missing out on the good and beautiful stuff in my life. It’s not always easy, but this idea of remembering that every moment is special because it will never happen again helps me to enjoy the here and now more — even when (or especially when) I’m buried in work or angry because someone is being a jerk.

For the record, the stuff that I was fretting about last week? Yep, it all worked out. This week I’m on to new worries. Time to remember that they will pass, too.

Have a great Wednesday, friends.