Archive for July, 2005
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship”
— Louisa May Alcott
Impermanence, or change, is a universal aspect of life. Things arise and, inevitably, they pass as well. We can see this from a variety of perspectives. For instance, from the lifespan viewpoint, we are born, we mature into adulthood, we evolve into older age and then we eventually die. Aging is a constant process of change. Similarly, day-to-day we experience evidence of impermanence in our lives; relationships, housing, jobs, family and health are often in changing states.
Change can be very stressful for us to experience and respond to. Changes require us to constantly adapt. Some changes are joyful: marriages, new homes, birth of children, to name a few. Yet, these joyful changes can be equally stressful as unpleasant ones: challenges in health, loss of a job, a relationship that ends, or loss of a loved one.
With awareness, we can learn to respond to changes in life with greater equanimity. “Equanimity is the strength to stay open-hearted and stable through changing conditions.”* Equanimity first requires us to accept whole-heartedly the fact that everything in life has the nature of impermanence. Out of this deep acceptance we can than acknowledge changes without trying to hold onto or push away any of them. This is particularly helpful during distressful or disruptive times; at these times it might help to remember the age-old wisdom, This, too, shall pass.
It is not uncommon to be overwhelmed by the changes in life. At times you may feel that your reactions to these changes have control over you rather than you having influence over them. Fortunately, equanimity is something that can be cultivated. To begin to bring greater equanimity into your present experience you might try repeating simple phrases such as
“May I have peace amid the changes in my life, and may I have peace amid the changes in others lives.” *
Although we cannot direct the wind, we can adjust the sails.
* Reference: The Beginner’s Guide to Insight Meditation by, Arinna Weisman & Jean Smith, Bell Tower: New York, 2001.