The waves roll inward, crash, and then recede.
The wind exhales and shutters a breeze.
The sun that rises later sets.
The seasons change, the years go on. Times passes slowly in one way, quickly in another. Where do the years go? We say to one another, never expecting an answer. We already know. There are just moments strung together—the moments of our lives.
The waves of change are the reminder of our impermanence.
The precious moments with your newborn, the heart-to-heart conversations with a loved one, the moments of honesty, vulnerability where you open. Why does this have to end? We plead in spaces of joy, freedom in relief, and where we feel the beauty that life finally gifts us.
The tenderness of a hug.
The cold drink on a hot day.
The kiss of the sun on your skin.
The song that makes you want to sing or dance.
The moments worth capturing, where you whisper to yourself, oh, I wish this could last forever.
Once we come to love something, we also recognize the potential for loss. We become attached when we feel good- we want it to stay. We cling. So yummy, I want more. Seconds, please? We don’t want to be reminded that we will lose it. Whatever it is, once it arrives, can you let the good be there? Without tainting it in any way with adjustments or corrections, notice what’s good and appreciate it before it goes.
Our child grows up and no longer needs us.
The drop from the high, the end of a trip.
The sweet parting goodbyes.
The post-fun blues.
The last bite of cake.
The rolling credits of the movie come, and we’re left to get back on to the next thing.
Watch newborns discover their newest encounter. Young life is naturally absorbed: The learning and fascination of what they can find with their eyes, touch, taste, and voice. Babies don’t think about tomorrow or worry about yesterday. They are here now. As we age, we lose our ability to be present and flow with life. We pick up worries and aches as we grow. We store the inner mysteries and pains in the shadows. We let few people know what goes on there.
When the waves are life aren’t so pleasant, we become frightened that these, too, will somehow last forever. Will this ever end? We wonder in the dullest, more trying times. The wisdom of impermanence is that even in the difficult moments, we can remember that everything–all of it–is temporary. We cry out in our moments of pain, panic, fear, and confusion. The seeming never-ending pandemic, the heart-wrenching breakup, the ambiguous loss, the daily annoyances, and the fog of all that we still don’t know. Whether it’s something we witness outside of us or only things we feel deep within ourselves, the moments of pain will end.
Something happens when we also recognize that however it is, it will not last. The impermanence that something will one day cease; whether beautiful, painful, sad, or exciting, radically we’re asked to become more present. Recognizing impermanence frees us from the struggle. Instead of clinging, hating, resisting what’s happing, we can learn how to manage the wave that is life right now.
When we have a pleasurable experience: we’ve finally made progress, we notice our growth, we finally feel good, relaxed. Or maybe we just for a moment recognize that everything is okay, and nothing needs to be done except be here and breathe it in. Celebrate.
The bittersweet taste of life reminds us that it is all passing. That change will come, wanted or unwanted, and something else will greet us at the door soon enough. The mystery is that we never know just how some parts of life will unfold or the nature of the course of what will be ahead of us.
Honest uncertainty is unpopular in most conversations. We feel comfortable with predictions, control. We want to know what’s ahead of us. We live with the illusion that we’ll be more equipped to manage it if only we knew. Yet, we never got the complete study guide for the crucial aspects of our lives: how to release or navigate pain and let in the wonder of all that is still unknown. We forget to contemplate the mysteriousness of our existence.
In our progressive mindset, we end up living with a critical attitude that means we’re always looking for what’s wrong and what needs changing. It is undoubtedly helpful for growth, but we can quickly burn out if it’s the only lens we see in life. What happens when you accept the fact that none of this will last. Change is our only constant. Something you love, something you hate, something you… it will all go. The pain, the worry, the joy, the pleasure. These are the waves of your life.
“I knew the moment I was in love when I noticed how much it would hurt to lose him,” a client said. The attachments that we cherish show us how much we will miss something once it’s gone. Can you tolerate both feelings at once? The love and the inevitable loss of it. Cherish it now. There will come a time when you miss the past; reminiscing, and looking back only to realize that what once was is no longer and never will be again.
When life meets us with difficulty, we forget that it will also end. It always does. Acknowledge the inevitable, and permit yourself to be in the space of it all. We have this now, so how can we appreciate it and find ways to ride this wave before it again changes form?
After meeting with some clients for years, we build a mutual affection and attachment. With time they trust me, and together we find ways to support their growth and healing. Our respect and trust for one another grow, and we become attached. Inevitably we must acknowledge that some way or another, I will leave them, or they will leave me. It’s frightening and causes a stir inside us because we don’t know. We want to keep what we have now, as precious as it might be, forever. Yet, we never can.
No one ever wants to talk about it: the end, the loss. And at the same time, it’s always our reality. Yet when it’s good, we want to hang on to it. Our youth leaves us behind, with only pictures and stories; now wrinkles imprint the memories on our faces. Our bodies hold the history of our lives; we have new aches where before there were none. Our looks and our resistance to it passing, our mourning, our constant reminiscing, trying to “get back” somewhere. When we know that things will end, we can appreciate and maybe even tolerate them more. When we’re grounded enough in ourselves, we can even loosen our grip on the fact that it’s all passing.
Nothing will last. Everything will go. This beautiful day, this joyous feeling, the darkness, and the confusion-none of it will stay. That’s the paradox of life: what was born will one day die. They are a packaged deal. The gift inside of loss: vast parts of life are out of our hands. We only have now. The waves of our lives: It will all be okay. And if it’s not, remember that it too will someday end.