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The Beauty of Impermanence

It can be easy to forget that an essential part of living is experiencing new things. In all the years of our lives, we will have countless new experiences, new places to visit, new foods to try, new people to meet, new passions to follow, new jobs to work and new ideas to explore. This keeps us in flux and flow, living dynamically, within a space of possibility, and open for growth as individuals. There is a strange undercurrent throughout many cultures though, that once we try something we are henceforth tied to it, perhaps ingraining this as part of our identity or worth. Should we decide to take a different course, this sentiment creates a false context that by choosing otherwise, we’ve somehow failed. Such is often the case with businesses that close, relationships which wane or hobbies we no longer pursue. Yet, it’s so important to remember that with anything in life, there will be a beginning and an end, and by honoring this natural timing of conclusions, we remain in greater freedom to let some things go, and to be open for new opportunities.

From this cultural readiness of labeling ‘success’ or ‘failure,’ we may find ourselves holding onto something longer than necessary. Perhaps we’re in a job which no longer inspires us, or we feel guilt for losing touch with a friend from a different time of life. There is an innate tendency to strive for the ‘long haul’ and to make commitments which we expect to honor forever. However, this concept of ‘forever’ doesn’t leave much space for new possibilities. In life, if we can be certain of anything, it is that all things will run their due course, inevitably reaching a natural end. The things which inspired us at 8 years old likely don’t resonate at 38 years old, and that’s because we’ve grown and had new experiences which have driven new interests. When we no longer feel aligned with a particular hobby, job, friendship, relationship or endeavor, rather than feel a failure because we no longer enjoy or want to pursue this, we may instead honor what this has meant in our lives, give thanks, and say good-bye. We don’t need to be tied to something because it once made sense. Life changes, and when we’re no longer aligned, it’s a good indicator that it’s time to make different choices and try something new.

Not recognizing when something has reached its conclusion, or refusing to see this truth, can leave us in patterns of fixed thinking. We may become focused on singular pathways, disconnected from flux and flow, and rigid in how we view life. Sometimes we may feel incapable of seeing things differently, or believe we’re limited in our choices. If we’re honest with ourselves, though, we may come to see that by not leaving room for alternative outcomes, we are reinforcing our patterns and actually choosing for things to stay the same. This may feel challenging to hear, but in all things, we do have choice. If we won’t or don’t choose something new, then we make the choice to accept what currently is. Sometimes when we feel stuck, constricted to try big changes, we may look at more simple shifts, perhaps in our mindset or perception. With small changes, there will be a ripple effect, increasing the space for different ways to react or respond, thereby offering new takes on a situation and/or fostering a perspective of possibility. And it is then that we create opportunities for new choices. When we lose the ability to embrace new ways of being, we inadvertently cripple ourselves, beset with fear to change, or critical of ourselves for wanting something different.

Rather than be shackled by fear or criticism, it can be helpful to remember that the evolution of mankind has been founded on challenging the way things have always been done. If this hadn’t happened, we’d have never discovered fire, nor air flight, nor how to carry mini computers everywhere. As each of these innovations grew and developed, there were many trials and errors. One way to see this could be ‘many failed attempts before success.’ Yet, another view could be to recognize everything that was learned through the many trials, taking this as information to inform new choices, new ways of moving forward, and eventually reaching or surpassing the intended outcome. A great example is when a child learns to walk; we don’t criticize them or call them a failure if they fall and stumble – instead we applaud their efforts and encourage them to try something new, a different way of reaching their goal to walk through life. By approaching life as an evolving experiment, with any possible number of outcomes, we begin to better appreciate everything we’ve experienced as information to guide our choices moving forward.

Inevitably, there will also be times when choices are made for us, when something comes to an end without our consent. If we get fired, break up with a partner, lose a loved one or become physically unable to do the things we enjoy, perhaps we look at these events as natural endings, understanding these parts of our lives have reached their full course. This may serve as a reminder of the fragile impermanence of people, things and times in our lives, and prompt us to hold appreciation and gratitude for them while they are here. And while these losses are certainly painful in the moment, with time and distance from them, we start to glean what we needed to learn from them, and our feelings about the loss change. Afterall, nothing remains permanent, life is always adapting and shifting, just as the weather may rain in the morning and be sunny in the afternoon. Everything is always in transition, and while some things stay with us longer than others, there will always be space for a new outlook, a new possibility, a new adventure on the horizon.

All of this helps us remember to find the beauty of impermanence, to move away from expectations that something will endure forever, and to embrace the infinite possibilities before us. We need not take rigid stances that any career, partnership, sport or pursuit will always be a part of our lives. When we try something and decide we no longer like it, or discover we’ve outgrown it, or learned there are better ways to live, let us celebrate this awareness! Let us enjoy this space to have freedom of choice and that we may elect to follow a different path, without judgment or criticism, and without labeling ourselves or an outcome as a failure. Through our lives, things will change – it’s an inevitability - and when we can embrace this, we return to the flux and flow of life, full of possibility!

By Jennifer Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective, Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher, Wellness and Lifestyle-change Guide

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