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Accepting Impermanence

Fall is the perfect time to talk about change because the evidence is clear and all around. The leaves are turning from mature green to red and gold, the wind is picking up and pulling in colder air, and my favorite coffee stop is starting go a little nutty with the whole pumpkin theme. As a native New Englander, seasonal transitions are nothing new to me. I actually thrive on these kind of changes, but personal life transitions can still be hard to accept.


"There is nothing permanent except change." ~ Heraclitus

Permanence is an illusion. Our lives are always moving and always shifting, even when we feel settled, but every once in a while, we are hit with a big reminder that our lives are not fixed. Change can be exciting--a new job, a new house, a new partner--but often change is terrifying. Even with my flexible and innovative personality, I still get anxious in times of uncertainty. We all crave stable ground. We all crave a predictable paycheck and an upward-slanted line when it comes to our life path, but we must learn from Mr. Gatsby's mistakes. We must learn to accept impermanence and let go of the unobtainable belief that life has to "keep going up". We must learn to be brave and optimistic in times of change.


Over the years, I have acquired a few techniques for accepting rather than fearing transitional periods, because fear is truly what's at work when we resist change. Overcoming the fear is the challenge and unfortunately it isn't a one-and-done sort of feat. Much like the game whack-a-mole, fear will continue to pop up in different forms as you navigate life's ups and downs, but the more you play, the better you'll get at whacking that fear away and utilizing your accepting skills.


Technique #1: Breathe. Always remember to breathe. When I catch myself growing anxious, fearing the unknown, constantly asking myself the unanswerable "What if?" questions, I reel my worrisome mind back in and breathe. I'm always amazed how quickly life can turn from a twisting, raging river to a trickling stream with just a few deep breaths. Slow down. Ease your mind. Worrying about the future never helps the present.


Technique #2: Remember that change is constant, and by accepting this truth, you are opening yourself up to happiness. An anxious, resistant, fearful mind breeds negativity. Let go of your hard grip on life and allow change, in whatever form it comes, to flow freely through your fingers.


Technique # 3: Use visualizations, nature, and art to connect on a personal level with change. I often use nature-based visualizations (as I'm sure you've noticed) to not only accept impermanence, but form a loving bond with the idea. The deeper the bond you develop with change, the less prone you'll be to fear. I've also been known to hang by rivers for hours, watching water bugs and leaves navigate the current as I think about my own life, but you don't have to get as hippy-dippy as me.


Technique #4: Flip the script. There are often two ways to view change: there is the negative loss way (which for whatever reason the unattended mind often leans towards) and there is the positive gain way. Whenever you catch yourself narrating your life on the negative end of the spectrum, flip the script! Come to the positive side! I've been using this technique a lot as I recently moved from Rhode Island back home to Connecticut--a major change for me. I could view this transition negatively, piling up my losses (my old apartment, my old town, my old proximity to friends), but I choose instead to view the change positively, focusing on the "gains": new home, new town, more opportunities to meet friends and places to meet up with my old friends. Rewire your brain and allow yourself to see the glass half full.


Technique #5: Move forward. This technique is not always the best, especially since I am such a believer in enjoying the present, but sometimes the unpredictability of life is so devastating, the best option is to just move forward. I have my friend on the mind when it comes to this one because she recently lost her husband to a bike accident. Depression is natural in the face of such a painful change, but depression can also keep a person stuck, debilitated in the past. None of us can go backwards. We can't undo or change what's behind us. I would never rush or judge anyone's grieving period, but I do encourage forward movement, even the smallest steps forward, during life's most difficult changes.


Technique #6: Talk to other people! Turns out none of us are alone--we're all constantly facing and learning to accept the inevitability of change. The more we relate and band together, the stronger we'll be in the face of change. If you feel alone, ashamed, or scared about a transition in your life, find a community of people going through a similar phase. They're out there! And I bet they want to connect with you.


I hope you find these techniques helpful! Feel free to share any that you may have for accepting the seasons of change.


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