Art by Melanie Ottenstein: Florida

Embracing Impermanence

By Sybil Ottenstein

None of the things we cling to are ever really ours.

The only constant is change. When the reality of impermanence in life hits, it can really scare the shit out of us. The end of a relationship you thought would last forever. Losing the opportunity to accomplish a life-long goal. The death of someone you love.


Oftentimes, we define ourselves according to the things we are attached to. When we find a deep and satisfying friendship or love, we want to relish in its deliciousness. When we get a new job, our position or company becomes who we are, seeping into the pores of our entire sense of self.


Think about the infamous hair perm(anent). It only lasts three months, yet anyone whose ever had one would say that they feel it should last longer. In this case, “should” signifies that we resent and resist what is. My marriage “should” have lasted. I “should” have been accepted to that job. Mere mortals such as ourselves don’t get to live in the world of “should,” as it negates the possibility of accepting the present circumstances of our lives.


None of the things we cling to are ever really ours. We do not possess the people in our lives, and our material goods can burn up tomorrow in a fire. Pondering this simple truth can induce fear, anger and confusion. But once we embrace impermanence, the process of letting go can free us.


Instead of resisting that which is outside of our control, we can surrender and embrace the experience. Through embracing impermanence, we can disconnect our sense of self with our (disillusioned) ability to control the outside world. This, in turn, allows us to develop and strengthen a sense of inner well-being which can live in harmony with the world around us. Think patience, acceptance and general namaste-ness.


Don’t get me wrong, loss and change can be devastating. I’ve been there. Experiencing that sort of visceral emotional pain hurts in ways that words simply cannot do justice. I would never deny to someone how that feels. Think of this as a suggestion to relate to change, and the suffering that arises from loss, in a new way. The suffering is in the clinging, not in the loss itself.


Since impermanence is basically the only permanent thing there is – we might as well work with it rather than against it. Embracing change just may be the greatest happy pill out there.

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