“Things change. People change. Everything changes. The universe is in a flux. Energy reinventing itself constantly.” ~ Gina Linko
Autumn has arrived in Tahoe and, as the leaves begin to turn, we are reminded that life is always changing. Change is not only an inescapable fact of life, it’s also the very nature of reality. Unfortunately, change is also one of the things that we fear the most. So, what can we do to cope with the impermanent nature of existence? You are probably familiar with the saying that the only constant in life is change, but how well do you really understand the concept of impermanence?
Impermanence is a fundamental aspect of the human experience. Nothing that you encounter in life is permanent. Everything that you experience is in the process of vanishing, only to reappear again in a different form. All things in the physical world, including your own body, are subject to impermanence. In fact, scientists have proven that every single cell in your body is replaced every 7 to 10 years. As a result, you literally aren’t the same person that you were ten years ago.
This state of impermanence is not only limited to the physical world. Your thoughts, emotions and external circumstances are also in a constant state of flux. The universe itself is a dynamic energy system, and energy never wants to be static. The nature of energy is to move, to flow, and to transform itself. Knowing this, you can’t really expect anything in your life to stay the same forever.
And yet impermanence is the source of almost all suffering. More specifically, our attachment to impermanent things is what causes us to suffer. For example, we irrationally expect our loved ones to go on living forever, and then we are devastated when they can’t live up to our impossible expectations. Likewise, we wish that our youth would go on forever, causing us to lament the passage of time. Whenever you are attached to something that is impermanent, you will inevitably be disappointed and suffer a feeling of loss when change comes. Only by fully understanding the impermanent nature of reality can you release your attachment to the world of form, liberating yourself from the cycle of human suffering.
“The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence.”
~Norman Vincent Peale
This week’s quote cuts right to the heart of the matter. Afterall, what is the point of being on the spiritual path if you don’t experience any real-world benefits? We all know we should be cultivating a state of inner peace, but we rarely question why. What is the benefit of being at peace? Why bother pursuing a life of harmony? What is the purpose of self-realization?
The short answer is that inner peace makes your experience of life so much easier. When you are at ease, everything you do is easy. Whereas being in a state of tension only adds unnecessary strain to a given situation without providing any benefit. Tensing up your shoulders and gripping the steering wheel won't get you through a traffic jam any quicker- just as squinting your eyes doesn't actually improve your eyesight.
Instead of pursuing inner peace, maybe we should be pursuing inner ease. To do this, don’t worry so much about silencing your thoughts, instead focus on opening your heart. Most people believe they will find peace once all their problems are solved and all their distractions are gone, but as Eckhart Tolle says, “you find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”
And so, once again, we are faced with the ultimate question: who are you at the deepest level? This is when the path of self-realization comes into play. Because when you know that your true essence is both infinite and eternal, you carry within you a deep well of tranquility. As the author Elizabeth Gilbert once wrote, “We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there exists a supreme self who is eternally at peace.”
So, the next time you feel yourself getting tense, see if your tension is serving you in any way. If not, then simply let it go and return to a state of inner harmony. Being at ease might not solve your problems, but it will make them much easier to deal with.
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About The Author
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being. Influenced by the ideas of Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, and Deepak Chopra, Nick presents his unique take on human existence with the goal of helping others live a happier life.