Around 3,000 years ago, the idea that our lives were in a state of constant change became a central feature of both Eastern and Western philosophies.
Then how come, thousands of years later, most of us still approach events in our lives as if they were permanent?
Let’s dig deeper.
We live in a world that reinforces the need for urgency, expectations, deadlines, the “good” life.
In school, they often asked us, “What do you want to be?”
We were then given a list of occupations that society deems important.
I remember looking at that list, and thinking to myself… what if I don’t want to be any of these?
But that internal voice slowly starts to fade when your opinions disappear in the crowd of your peers.
And then, slowly but surely, most of us dedicate our lives working towards it.
Working to fulfill expectations and deadlines set by others.
Expectation after expectation. Deadline after deadline.
Worst of all, most of us don’t even stop to ask: Why?
Just that slight rush of reward after completing a task is enough to keep us going and to shrug off all the stress, anxiety and pressures we may have encountered along the way.
But then, after exerting all that time, commitment and energy, what are we greeted with?
Another task, another deadline, another reward.
This pattern appears in almost every aspect of our lives.
You see companies spending billions of dollars on advertising for the sole purpose of convincing our human brains to make the connection: “Buy this, and you will be happy.”
And what happens every time?
A new product comes out. You think that it is the answer to all your problems. And once you have it, the feeling fades away, and the search begins for the next best thing.
Do you see the pattern?
It’s like playing candy crush and trying to get to the final level, but then realizing that there is no final level.
Just like there is no end to candy crush, there will be no end to deadlines or to the material consumption that is supposed to bring you happiness.
These things, just like everything else we experience, are IMPERMANENT.
It took me a while to realize this.
I spent most of my life basing my feelings on the expectations of others. It was so important for me to feel accepted, to feel recognized.
It was so important to do well, to look well.
Nobody ever asked if I was actually well.
I was not sleeping, not taking proper care of myself, and sadly I struggled with depression for a very long time.
But despite that, I guess I can say that I “made” it – on paper.
I was working at a well reputable finance firm, a job that was desired by many of my peers and respected by my parents.
Even though I was working until 3 am almost every night, having mental breakdowns in between Zoom calls, and my actual life was falling apart.
But I mean, that’s okay, right?
After saying that I was okay for 5 years, I finally hit both mental and physical burn out which ultimately led me to make one of the most important decisions of my life.
I packed my bags and left for Montreal. I was on the search for my own truth of learning what life means to me rather than what society tells me it should mean.
And in that quest for truth, I discovered the concept of impermanence, along with the beauty it can bring to your life once you fully understand it.
The idea that existence is in a state of ever-changing flux and nothing is meant to stay the same.
You may be thinking… well that’s obvious! I know that today is not going to be the same as tomorrow and that people get older with age. It’s common sense, we feel it the moment we are born!
That’s what I used to think. Until I realized that knowing something and truly understanding it so you can apply it to your life in a meaningful way are completely two different things.
According to the Buddha, “Suffering arises when we attempt to make the impermanent things permanent. It is not the impermanence that leads to the suffering. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”
Once that is understood, you become aware of the power you hold to the freedom and liberation of your own mind and the events that happen along the course of life.
Here are some of the tools that I use to practice impermanence in my daily life:
Appreciating the Beauty Behind an Impermanent World
Life is not possible without impermanence. Without change, a seed would never become a plant, and a boy would never become a man. Human civilization would not be where we are today without the millions of years of progress and evolution.
The idea that nothing will stay the same forever can inspire appreciation towards life and the present moment. Gratitude brings peace to the mind and removes the space for negativity from memories of the past and fears of the future.
So next time, take out a piece of paper and write down three things that you are grateful for.
It can be as simple as:
I am grateful for the sun rising today.
Creating Balance in Your Life: Save Space for the Good Times, and the Bad
When we understand the essence of impermanence, we understand that nothing lasts forever. This applies to both the good times and the bad.
I used to approach life in a way that when times were good, I would feel on top of the world like nothing could break me.
But then, naturally, change happens. Suddenly, the “happy” reality is gone. And then what happens? All the energy I spent during the good times, left me blindsided and unable to adapt when something shifts. This made the bad times feel like the end of the world with no escape.
So next time, when everything seems to be going well, EMBRACE IT, but also set a simple reminder to yourself that, just like everything in life: This Will Pass.
And when life decides to give you a hard time, just know that: This Too Shall Pass.