The Happy Human
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The Happy Human

5 Solid Practices to Overcome the Fear of Impermanence

Don the uncertainty of life as an armor.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

What is generally common about your weight, house, surroundings, neighbors, friends, relatives, work, eyesight, priorities, beliefs, wealth, emotional strength, thought process, knowledge, world-view, spirit?

Change.

Some change is periodic like trees shedding leaves or a snake shedding its old skin, the change of day to night and the seasons. Many changes are unpredictable.

If we get an unexpected promotion or inheritance we feel elated. It’s when things do not work out or present unpleasant outcomes that we become shaken and anxious.

We might walk into our office one morning and get the pink slip. A long-time client might choose to discontinue an agreement. Your partner may want to part ways. Change causes discomfort, disturbance, desolation, anxiety, pain, and, at times, mental agony and depression.

Buddhism teaches that the source of pain and suffering is our tendency to attach to relations and material things. Since nothing on earth lasts forever, attachment creates pain.

Impermanence is the fundamental fact of life. Everything changes.

This post is my take on impermanence in life and how we should use it as an opportunity to grow.

Impermanence can be an opportunity

Impermanence need not be a source of pain, suffering, anxiety, or stress. The Bhagavad Gita says that for everyone who is born, death is certain.

It is our choice how we react to impermanence. We can choose to harness it, grow as a person and become resilient.

How do we convert impermanence into a fountain of resilience?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back. We must face the impermanence of life because it is the grit within us that will help overcome the curveballs that life throws at us.

Unlike in-born talent, resilience can be built. You can develop resilience through systematic efforts.

#1 Accept the impermanence around you

The universe is continuously in a state of motion. Every moment brings about some change even if it is infinitesimally small. Flowers blooming in your garden are dying and falling off. New ones are taking their place.

Nothing lasts forever.

Remember the oft-used quote — “This too shall pass”. It is the embodiment of impermanence.

We cannot control everything that happens around us, yet there are things within our control.

Accepting impermanence means you are preventing your mind from getting overwhelmed by events. Think of it like this: when you are anxious, you stop breathing. When you accept something, it’s like unclenching your fist. You start to inhale and exhale.

I always circle back to draw my strength from the serenity prayer attributed to the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

#2 Widen your horizon

Ice changes to water and then to vapor but camphor goes from solid to its vapor state. Different things change at a different pace. Therefore, everything in your life will not change at the same time. Here lies an opportunity.

You must think of purposefully developing multiple and often unrelated interests.

Why?

They will cushion your mind from unpleasant surprises. When our heads are filled with a variety of activities, hobbies, or passions we are better equipped to weather the storms. Someone whose entire life revolves around a single job, hustle, role, or relationship will feel any loss or turmoil acutely. There is nothing else in their lives to distract or divert their attention.

What should you do?

Carve some time for yourself every day. Use it any way you want. No questions asked.

Meet new people, join groups and forums. Listen to what others say and share. Absorb their insights and knowledge.

The same smartphone which we use to mindlessly scroll through inane social media posts can be used to do meaningful things like checking in on friends and family.

Do something, anything, that is of value.

Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Our computers have become windows through which we can gaze upon a world that is virtually without horizons or boundaries.

#3 Continuously move out of your comfort zone

Sleep on the other side of your bed. Do not get fixated with “my” side. Better yet, go and sleep in another room every once in a while or sleep on the floor.

If you are a right-handed person, use your left hand to brush your teeth every other day.

Do not wait for a crisis to knock you out of your comfort zone. Wake up, go out and try new things, practice. Build your arsenal.

What do soldiers do when there is no war? Practice.

Prepare for the eventuality of a war. The war strategists imagine the possible scenarios and condition the soldiers to fight in each circumstance. The idea is to imagine the different settings and strategize to face them.

You will discover fantastic ideas, opportunities, and possibilities when you step out of your self-constricting comfort zone. And believe me, I have experienced it. You’ll wonder why you were languishing in that “comfort zone” missing out on immense potential.

Do not forget that we have just one life. I think it is sacrilege to squander it by just remaining alive and scraping through. Reach out and try new things, especially the things that scare you.

Live!

#4 Center yourself by meditating regularly

Fear is a terrible thing — it freezes us from thinking or acting. We stop breathing. Overcoming this fear helps us move ahead. Our deepest darkest fears and anxieties must be addressed, and for that to happen, we have to calm down and center ourselves.

I have heard a lot of people practice meditation but I could never sit down quietly in harmony with my surroundings. My smug subconscious mind chided me for being unproductive.

A few months back a relative shared a link to a 21-day meditation challenge. He asked me to keep an open mind and try it out. The whole experience was transformative. I could not believe how wonderful I felt.

A lot of muddle in my mind has cleared and I am productive yet calm about situations around me. Earlier, I used to be volatile, reactive, and often on the edge. Now I just take my time to think and act.

Thich Naht Hanh said, “Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.”

I have not developed a fixed schedule for meditation but I do keep some time to myself. In those moments, I try to sit quietly and just breathe. These windows of opportunity reveal a lot. I am able to untangle my messy thoughts and set them in order which relieves me of anxiety. It helps me focus and think clearly.

If you are struggling with meditation, try Headspace. There is no fixed rule. Do whatever works for you.

#5 Develop an attitude to learn, acquire new skills, unlearn and relearn

There is no set age for learning or starting something new. It is never too late. It is said that the famous fashion designer Vera Wang started designing her dresses when she was 40 years old. Harlan David Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 65.

Age is just a number.

The Internet has revolutionized education, learning, and skill development. Armed with a smartphone and data plan, you can pick up a new skill from anywhere. Adam Grant’s book Think Again coaches us to upskill and remain perpetual students.

Your drive to learn should not be for the sake of promotion, career growth, money, or future prospects. These things will happen eventually.

The enthusiasm to learn new skills should be ingrained in our attitude. It sets us free from the fear of the unknown. We are better placed to face any kind of challenges knowing that we can pick up new skills, adapt, and make inroads into the unknown. Continuously engaging ourselves frees us from being stuck in a rut.

You become complacent, bored, and scared (in that order) when you stop learning. But when you are busy mastering new things or acquiring skills, the brain releases dopamine, which is excellent for your physical and mental health. Blood circulation, digestion, and sleep quality improve, which diminishes stress and promotes well-being.

What did you learn recently? Nothing? That’s quite alright. You can start now.

Resilience is what sees us through

It is our choice whether we wallow in the pain of change or swiftly pivot. We have to learn to go with the flow instead of fighting every change. We must improvise to sustain.

Mental resilience and not just physical strength, money, or power helps us cope with change and associated feelings of anxiety and pain. We are not born with resilience; we build it within us with thoughts and actions, brick by brick.

To build resilience and prevail over impermanence:

  1. Accept that there is impermanence in everything around us
  2. Widen your horizon, build a new network
  3. Rattle yourself out of your comfort zone
  4. Center yourself, meditate
  5. Develop an attitude to learn, upskill regularly

My coping approach is to look for something good or a positive takeaway from every change. What is gone or taken away is over. What have I learned or how have I grown better from the experience? That is the reward and refinement of my existence. I am now wiser.

Let us consciously prepare for impermanence and work on living with equanimity. The easiest way to trudge ahead is to constantly reaffirm that things are going to change. And that is okay.

I write about small businesses, health, and life as I see it on Medium, LinkedIn, and my website.

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Ipshita Guha

Ipshita Guha

Entrepreneur & Freelance Content Writer for SMBs | ISFJ-T | DiSC ‘D’| https://www.datainvestigata.com | Linkedin:/ipshitabasuguha| Twitter:@datainvestigata

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