“One of the chief reasons we have so much anguish and difficulty in facing death is that we ignore the truth of impermanence.
In our minds, changes always equal loss and suffering. And if they come, we try to anesthetize ourselves as far as possible. We assume, stubbornly and unquestioningly, that permanence provides security and impermanence does not. But in fact impermanence is like some of the people we meet in life—difficult and disturbing at first, but on deeper acquaintance far friendlier and less unnerving than we could have imagined.”
– Sogyal Rinpoche, Glimpse After Glimpse
Do you ever want to hide from impermanence, and pretend it doesn’t exist? At times, I struggle with impermanence too. In fact, right now, I want to rally against it as though my adamant refusal to accept change could single-handedly dam up the flow of this inescapable truth.
You see, I have been struck by the deep sorrow of separation. Although it’s not mine, a visceral pain tears up my heart as if it truly belonged to me.
All spiritual traditions teach us not to harm. So, I wonder, why do we harm others by leaving them? Isn’t all the suffering beings endure from the natural causes of impermanence – illness, death, disaster, and the like – enough already?
Then again, what is harm? That’s not always so easy to discern when it comes to questions like staying or leaving. How can I truly know or judge?
Honestly, I’m not a moralistic person. I just cannot bear the agony of a family torn apart though I realize, in time, this too will transmute into yet another form.
I know! Sometimes separation is warranted. But, other times, aren’t we just chasing the fulfillment of our perceived needs, which we imagine can be meet by another person or situation? The newness may bring us joy – even ecstasy – at first. But, once the shine wears off, chances are we’ll find ourselves running the same patterns, embroiled in discontent again.
So why do we leave those we love or have loved for someone new? Why do we inflict this pain?
This rupture feels too strong to bear. I impulsively clamp down on the surge of torment. Am I overly empathic or has this separation triggered my own unconscious terror? Clearly, I’m attached to the “happily-ever-after dream,” and feel nothing but aversion for that which causes sorrow.
The Buddha said suffering exists, and the suffering must be known. Without seeing our suffering, there is no impetus to look for its cause: destructive emotions (attachment, aversion, and ignorance being the primary three) and negative actions. And, without understanding the causes of suffering, there is no possibility for change.
Although I’m averse to impermanence in this particular moment, I know the pain is not forever. It too will change. Laughter will be known again as the once unbearable heartbreak gradually fades day by day. I understand that suffering’s job is to make us learn and grow, impermanence being one of its crafty tools.
I would never wish suffering on another. But here it is. Can I accept it with perspective and grace? Who am I to try to take away someone’s suffering if that is what they need to grow? How can I judge and know what’s right for another?
I must lean into the sorrow instead of moving away, allowing it to burn and burn until it reveals only love for all touched by this pain.
Impermanence, are you truly a friend?
How do you work with the sadness that comes about due to change?
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