To start, everything is up in the air! Our world is changing in many ways. There often isn’t anything to hold onto. Relationships flop and end. We may lose our source of income or our home. People leave us or die. The climate is changing. We are dealing with mass migration due to both political and environmental issues. Species are going extinct. The way the world works, the type of jobs available, and much more is evolving. The external world consistently changes. One of the Buddha’s main principles is the principle of impermanence.
“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” – Nhat Hanh.
When I got extremely ill with Lyme disease, my world changed. I had so little control over my body. My sleep tanked. I shook violently if I tried to exercise. I felt awful. Over time, this caused me to shift to what I could control. My thoughts and feelings - and they didn’t want to follow the program. They wanted to moan and complain. They tried to tell me how horrible things were. They had an agenda that said, “I hate this. It was better before. I want to go back to the way my life was before.” My current response to that is, “Good luck with that.”
So, what do we do? How do we keep our balance?
If you hold onto something that can change, sooner or later, you will find out that there is nothing to grasp onto. You cannot hold onto a mirage. Everything is transient. Instead, we need to learn to hold onto things that are not transient.
What isn’t transient?
What isn’t transient can be reached through the internal, not the external.
What isn’t transient are qualities such as Goodness, Kindness, Peace, and Love. Qualities simply are. We can reach towards them and hopefully embody them.
These concepts are solid. They are vibrational, meaning we can reach them by vibrating at the same level. In other words, we become goodness, peace, or love. We do this both by our thoughts and our actions. To embody generosity, we give. To embody kindness, we are kind to someone who needs it. Maybe we smile at someone we ordinarily would not notice and think about what their life is like. These actions change us. We become somebody different.
Here is another concept to think about:
Imagine you are a trapeze artist. You are swinging. You let go and swoop through the air and grab onto the other artist swinging towards you. How do you do that?
- You have practiced and know what you are doing.
- You trust your trapeze partner.
- You trust yourself and what you know.
- Your trust the process of release, flying and then grabbing back on.
In a sense, this is how you transition through the changes and empty spaces you may be confronted with.
When you are in the air between trapeze swings, you cannot be thinking, “Oh no, I might not make it.” You cannot be thinking about what you will be making for dinner. Instead, you must be in the flow. Tuned in to your inner being, to your muscles, to the act of flowing. To what you are doing in the moment.
Some steps to gain equilibrium or get grounded:
- Negative thoughts and fears be gone. Find a way to replace them with positive thoughts. You simply cannot weather the storm if you are terrified or telling yourself you won’t make it. If you don’t have control of your mind and emotions, you can develop this ability. Try meditation or therapy. Think long term. Think of this as an investment in yourself. Think of developing a skill like playing the piano, something that takes time, energy, and focus. Anything worth doing will require those three things.
- Get into your body. Breath. Find yourself in the present moment. Most likely in this moment, you are okay. It is what we tell ourselves that can get us out of balance and ungrounded.
- Manage your expectations. Don’t expect a static life. That is setting yourself up for something impossible. The world is changing faster and faster. Life is not static. When it is static, you may feel safer temporarily, but you won’t be growing. And your life won’t stay static. It simply isn’t possible.
- Find an internal ballast. For me, it goes something like this, “Ultimately, I don’t know what will happen in my life, but I do know I will always do my best. I do believe I have a purpose and that I will fulfill it. I believe that there are higher forces and energies that I can reach for (whether this is God or something else). I believe that my life is an opportunity to learn and grow, regardless of what happens to me.”
- See the value of flowing with change. Harmony is a higher quality than struggle. See if you can go with the flow and find harmony with what is occurring instead of fighting it. When we fight against something, we bring in a discordant energy. (Of course, sometimes we need to fight, like when we are confronting oppression or some other injustice.) But in terms of staying balanced in a world of change, be like a Zen master. We can learn to move with change. We become the tree that sways in the storm, not the one that breaks.
- Recognize your growth. As you accept and learn from change, you grow.
- Consider that change could invigorate your life. Something new may come in that is better than what was.
We all are confronted with difficult situations and changes. Impermanence is part of the human condition. But we also can develop ourselves so that we can survive these changes and use them to help us become more than we were. Like the sand that becomes the pearl, we, too, can take the grit of life and use it to form the pearl of ourselves.