Embracing Impermanence: A Guide For Staying Sane

Are you feeling the sharp edges of impermanence?

Whether you attribute it to global warming, economic crisis, pole shifting, dramatic upheavals in weather patterns, or a mass rebellion against one too many passwords to memorize, change is in the air.

It can feel hard sometimes to get a grip. Ok, I’ll admit, it feels like things have been falling apart for the past decade. Sometimes I feel like my subconscious mantra is: om ah hum another one bites the dust, SVAHA. 

It’s important to remember that whatever happens is just a step along the way, a passing phase. The current circumstances are simply the fruition of one phase, and yet they are also the seed of the phase that will soon be at your doorstep.

So how do you manage your state of mind while waiting for a chaotic situation to resolve?

How do you find solid ground to stand on while the earth gives way under our feet?

I can happily say that, after much experience with this one, I’ve learned a few tricks.

First it’s important to recognize that solid ground is also an illusion. When you feel like you need to get a grip, remember that the secret is not to get a grip at all, but rather to let go.

Here is a guide for staying sane in the midst of chaos:

1. Go easy on yourself

Be gentle. Don’t aggravate already existing external pressure by adding the critical “I” voice. Things fall apart; we don’t have to assume we did something wrong when things don’t go our way. Take heed of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s wise words, “pain is not punishment, and pleasure is not a reward.” It’s just how things are, currently. Nourish yourself with healthy food and supportive relationships and BE KIND to yourself. Settle into the breath when you can remember.

2. Reconnect. 

Spend time in nature. Re-commit to or take up a mindfulness practice. Pema Chodron’s How To Meditate is an excellent introduction to sitting meditation practice. If you’re not there yet, then try yoga, or writing practice, or painting or walking:  something that lets you tune in to your present experience without getting lost in the storyline. Remember what is important to you and re-prioritize if necessary.

3. Invite space. 

Often a flurry of activity can mask an unwillingness to be with the situation as it is. Acknowledge fear and anxiety if they arise, and simply let these emotions work through you rather than letting them take hold of you. Keep it simple and let the wisdom of the moment reveal itself.

4. Practice patience. 

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was this: If you don’t know what to do next, don’t do anything. Wait patiently for clarity to dawn. Practice inviting clarity–from a higher source if necessary. Use the time to reflect (not analyze or obsess), rest, reconnect with sources of joy and strength. Appreciate the small things.

Embracing impermanence allows us to stay in the present moment rather than projecting an outcome onto a situation. When we learn to stay present we rest in the space where the possibilities arise. If we fixate on a future outcome--desired or undesired--we limit ourselves by expecting results.

If all else fails, remember that impermanence is constant—so things will change again.

Embracing Impermanence: A Guide For Staying Sane