Embracing impermanence

‘To live in this world 

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.’

From ‘In Blackwater Woods’ by Mary Oliver

Today, as I write this, I notice that it is the Autumn solstice, a day when daylight and darkness are equal. The leaves are beginning to fall off the trees, gently reminding us that nothing lasts forever, it is nature’s time to gently let go. Learning the skills to stay with our present-moment-experience can afford us a heightened awareness of the wonder, but also an awareness of the fragile quality of life itself. This observation of the changing natural world can be a real support to us when learning to face into, possibly even embrace, impermanence. Even though part of the natural world; as humans, we often find it hard to let go of things in our lives, whether little things or bigger, more meaningful things. In a simple way, we might even notice whether we found it hard recently to let go of Summer and face into Autumn.  We might be grieving the loss of the lovely long days, or the light. Facing into grief and loss is without doubt one of our most difficult, yet inevitable challenges. 

The notion of impermanence is very much on my mind these days and I have been exploring the concept with intention. When you practice mindfulness meditation and learn to bring a moment-by-moment awareness to thoughts, sensations and emotions, you learn to accept that, just like the natural seasons, things are always moving and changing in our lives, beginning and ending, being born and dying. This awareness, however, can be double-edged and can bring real sadness at times, when we realise that all good things come to an end. Yet, on the other hand, when we realise that someone or something will not last forever, we are also given a precious gift, of how to use our time wisely and a chance to appreciate and be grateful for what we have, while we still have it.  

Acknowledging that the natural cycle of life is outside of our control and includes loss and letting go, we can choose to focus on the things that are within our control, like making peace, making memories, and making space for what is truly important to us. “To see the preciousness of all things, we must bring our full attention to life,” says author and world-renowned meditation teacher Jack Kornfield in his book ‘A path with heart’. Jack writes that happiness in life is less about owning or possessing things than about our capacity to love. Keeping our hearts and minds open and soft when facing grief and loss is not easy but bringing our full attention to life means being present for both pleasant and unpleasant life experiences and allowing ourselves to tenderly turn towards our feelings, even the difficult ones, like grief and loss.  

Acceptance plays a huge part here and mindfulness helps with this, giving us the skills to stay in the present moment, even if it’s not filled with joy or if it’s bittersweet. Being present with people and with ourselves when dealing with grief and loss, offers an invitation to reconcile and forgive our own perceived failings or flaws, to connect and make peace with ourselves and others. Undoubtedly, other people are feeling similar emotional pain or may have felt the pain of loss before, so we can connect with our common humanity, the fact that we are not alone in how we are feeling. People respond or react in different ways to impermanence and to grief, loss and change. There is no right or wrong, but maybe we can bring a little softness or compassion to anything we’re struggling with just now, or any loss we may be feeling. Is there something in yourself or someone else that you might need to forgive or let go of in this moment? Knowing that we only have this present moment, the here and now, can be a great motivator for being the best human being you can possibly be, just in this moment.  

If you would like an opportunity to connect with yourself and others in a meaningful way, I am delighted to be guiding drop-in mindfulness sessions at Myross Wood, Leap on Tuesday mornings from 10 -11am. Please get in touch if you are interested in attending.  

My online meditation sessions via Zoom are on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8pm, please do consider joining in, whether you have tried mindfulness meditation before or are new to it.  These small group sessions are personal, down-to-earth, informal and donation based. Individual or group sessions are also available.

If you need any support to begin or to deepen your meditation practice, please feel free to get in touch. For more information on upcoming workshops and courses please like my Facebook page (Mindhaven) or feel free to get in touch by phone: 087 2700572 or by email: susanoreganmindfulness@gmail.com 

Susan O Regan

Susan O'Regan teaches mindfulness and self-compassion courses and workshops in West Cork.

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