In the face of all the losses and changes, we need to accept impermanence in life
When I went for a walk in the nature recently, I contemplated the leaves of trees are going to fall gradually in autumn. Autumn may be a time for us to think about the come and go of things in our lives. The falling off of those beautiful flowers and leaves in trees symbolises impermanence of lives. Hongkongers in recent two years face radical changes in their lives due to many social issues and the pandemic. We inevitably face losses in our lives as if some of us had experience of facing the loss of our beloved ones. We start to realise how impermanent our living conditions, daily activities, work and study, as well as lives are.
In the face of all these losses, we need to embrace the radical uncertainties in our lives. This suggests that the world is so unpredictable and there are a lot of things we cannot control. In fact, we may also find that the environment and the “self” that we create throughout the years as if it is stable and constant is an illusion. We need to come to terms with the reality that our strategies to control our environment and creating a “self” may not always work.
How can we cultivate an acceptance of the impermanence in life when we need certainty for our sense of security? The key to face impermanence is not to smooth or suppress our uncomfortable feelings or unpleasant experience. On the contrary, we need to learn to allow our uncomfortable feelings to flow. That is, to embrace those feelings with self-compassion. For example, if we face the loss of our beloved dog, we inevitably feel very sad. Instead of trying to distract ourselves from the sadness, we need to get in touch with the sadness and let it flow.
Another important key is to contain those uncomfortable feelings and not let those feelings overwhelm us. We have to let those unpleasant emotions arise, but we should not let those emotions to lead us to behaviours that create illusions and troubles. For instance, when we feel anxious at facing uncertainty about our future work environment, we need to manage the anxiety in an optimal level and should not let the anxiousness overwhelm us to a point that impairing our work performance.
When we are able to let our uncomfortable feelings to flow in the face of losses, we may gradually reconnect ourselves back to life. We may get in touch with the universe bigger than our “self” and perceive the loss in a bigger perspective. For example, we may learn to see life in a wider perspective that is beyond our individual needs and survival. We may be able to find our unique way of widening our perspective-taking through religion or philosophy.
To realise that impermanence is the reality of life, we may start to understand we waste a lot of our time in trying to control things that are unpredictable and uncontrollable. By trying to control the uncontrollable, we limit our life by not really living our lives. It is not difficult to find some workaholics being unable to treasure a simple delicious lunch. With this realisation, we may start to live our lives with “life is uncertain and unrepeatable” in our mind. Even though we are still facing lots of uncertainty due to all the social issues and the pandemic, we can at least live our daily life fully by living in the present moment. We can be more mindful at our daily experiences of simple activities, such as eating or walking. We can also treasure our relationships with our beloved ones more.
We are facing such an uncertain and unpredictable world nowadays. It is our opportunity to understand the meaning behind our sufferings and live our lives more fully.