Most of us have a tendency to plan and work to get our lives to settle down, to be more consistent, and to be more predictable. We sometimes find ourselves planning everything down to the minute. We can feel resentment, frustration, or anger when things come along and mess with our scheme.
What we learn with the practice of mindfulness, over time, is that we are not able to settle down in this regard. There is the inexorable Law of Impermanence that tells us that everything is changing all of the time and that change is the only thing in life that is guaranteed. Whether we are talking about our jobs, our families, our relationships, our bodies, or even the things that we do to entertain ourselves, what we find is that things are changing all of the time.
"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry..." This well-known saying is adapted from a line in the poem "To a Mouse," by Robert Burns. I think that it speaks clearly to the phenomenon of impermanence and constant change.
Suffering can be understood as what we add to what happens to us in our lives. When we resist change, when we say that we don't like change, when we fail to accept change for what it is, then we create suffering for ourselves. This is where the practice of acceptance is so valuable.
The Buddhist teacher Bodhipaksa writes about the equanimity of acceptance. He defines it as "The equanimity that comes from letting go, from ceasing to identify with our experience. It's the equanimity that comes from not getting caught up in our inner dramas, from not reacting to unpleasant feelings with aversion and by not responding to pleasant feelings with grasping."
The teacher Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo states that through the practice of mindfulness "...you get into a state of mind where you accept that whatever is happening is happening... It has nothing to do with the experience or circumstance: it's the attitude that's important. We have to stop clinging to the conditioned path and learn to be open to the unconditioned path... We have to cultivate contentment with what we have."
Pema Chodron, in her book The Wisdom of No Escape, tells us that there is no solid ground under our feet, and that the ground is always shifting. She says that "One of the main discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the present moment, how we avoid being here just as we are." She goes on to say that "Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already."
Over time, and with regular meditation practice, we begin to grasp that change is all that we have in life. Sheng Yen provides some of the best advice that I have found regarding how to approach impermanence and change.
He says: "...face it; accept it; deal with it; then let it go."
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