I was recently at a 9-day silent meditation retreat. I went to deepen my mindfulness practice. And also to connect with inner resources to deal with a change happening in my personal life. As human beings our brains and bodies are designed for us to want to hold on to pleasurable experiences and avoid painful ones. It’s part of nature’s way of encoding survival of the species. We want to hold on to a job that provides security (or keep eating those yummy chocolate chip cookies). We want to avoid that difficult conversation. It’s normal.
Here’s what I learned from the retreat. Everything is always changing. Our holding on or avoiding change creates more suffering. The good news is that we can train our brains to accept and appreciate what’s here now and gently let go of what’s going away. Once we learn to practice this, we find great beauty in the impermanence of things. Over the course of the nine days, I started to notice that I was so much more present to the experience of what’s here now, precisely because I accepted that it may not be here later. It became a beautiful experience of presence. I was even moved to write poetry about it. (Who knew I had poetry in me? Nine days of silence brings up lots of surprises.)
This week’s mindful practice is to notice the inherent impermanence of everything. To practice this, take a breath now. And another one. Wait. Notice that you had to let the first breath go to take a new one? The human body has about 37 trillion cells. It’s said that every minute 300 million cells die and are replaced. A thought comes into your head. It’s replaced by another one (especially if you’re meditating). Watch the ocean, a new wave every few seconds. The wind changes direction. The trees shed their leaves. Seasons change. Everything is always changing. When we start befriending change as just a fact of life, it lets us deal with reality as it is. It helps us be skillful in change. To befriend a change in your life, you can also try a “Stay Grounded In Change” practice here.
Wishing you a mindful week,
P.S. One-Minute Mindfulness are short reads that give you a practice a week so you can experience being mindful in the activities you’re already doing. If you’d like to learn and create mindfulness habits with team-mates and friends, please share this link to sign up.
P.P.S. I would love for you to share your experience or questions from this practice and share what you’ve learned in the comments below.
P.P.P.S. And here’s my poetic debut:
Ode To Impermanence
A bird takes flight
The clouds move in a vast blue sky
The wind dances a tattered prayer flag
A wildflower loses a petal
The dew ready to fall off its perch
The singing bowl ending its beckoning
A cricket offering its song
A joy in the heart
A quivering for the sublime
A yearning to hold this moment
An ache, an envy, a fleeting regret
A lover’s touch
Welcome each. And let it go.
For it will not stay.
Life is here. Now. Calling you.