Love Impermanence

We live our lives seeking situations or things that are permanent. This might include a relationship, a profession, investments, our bodies, or beliefs. It is human nature to plan for the future seeking a sense of certainty as if we had control over the present or the future. Here is one of my favorite quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, founder of the Plum Village Tradition. One of the primary tenants of Buddhism is impermanence. Impermanence is the lack of permanence, or the fact that everything is changing, thus nothing is really permanent or even certain. I guess if there is any certainty it would be that nothing is permanent. As you are reading this your body is changing, the weather is changing, even our own most strongly held beliefs are under siege. Because of impermanence our plans for the future are at best a wish and in reality are extremely uncertain.

If you can accept that everything is impermanent you will begin to free yourself from worrying about your problems. If everything is impermanent than so is your pain and suffering. That situation that is causing you so much grief is likely to change and you will inherent a new problem to worry about. Flip the coin and the joy you feel today may be replaced by pain tomorrow, or by some other form of happiness. You might be thinking well all this in not very comforting and what am I to do about this impermanent life of mine? The answer is that there is nothing for you to do. If you need to do anything it would be to simply accept impermanence and live in the present moment.

Listen, I’m not saying you should not make plans, but any plan you make must include some flexibility due to the fact that whatever you have planned will likely need to change. Working towards a goal you have can be a wonderful thing, but then impermanence steps in and what you are working for may no longer be possible to achieve. Remember impermanence does not equate to something negative and in fact it often will result in new opportunities that avail themselves if you are willing to embrace uncertainty and drop your bullshit adherence to the plan you have in your head.

Let’s say you have this job working for some corporation and your plan is to work there for the next 5 years and then retire. However your company begins losing market share and they have to eliminate your high paid position. You could be angry, start blaming the company or yourself, and have a nice pity party and this might be something you decide to keep doing for the foreseeable future. For someone who embraces impermanence this kind of reaction to the situation would be impossible. The person that accepts uncertainty would say Fuck it and move on. The plan you had is no longer valid, but you think well let’s take a look at this world of possibilities and act upon some other interests you have. I have personally been in similar situations and every time a door closed, another one opened and the change only enhanced my life. This is why I love impermanence because when you embrace it you learn and grow as a person, you become unstuck. Here is another quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Learn to love impermanence and all will be well with you.

Namaste

 

There is no destination

Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-Quote-Life-is-a-journey-not-a-destination

I am a Project Manager by profession, and as such I do a lot of planning for the future. One of the things we found over the years is that it is difficult to predict the future with any degree of accuracy and thus agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban were born. Well if you can’t even predict what needs to be done and how long will it take for something as finite as a project then why do you expect to do this in a more complex scenario called your life.

I’m not saying you should not have goals or for that matter you should not plan things out that can be planned. The problem lies in having some stupid attachment to the plan while watching the failures accumulate as you doggedly follow a plan that is flawed. Like I said it’s good to have goals, but think of them more in terms of what you need to accomplish in the next couple weeks or a month instead of having detailed plans that span months and years. If you use an agile method like Scrum you would have a backlog of goals (Epics) and things you need to do to achieve the goal (user stories and tasks). Instead of making yourself crazy just pick a couple user stories from the backlog that will help you achieve your goal and focus on those for the next couple of weeks.

As your journey through life happens your goals will change, some may disappear and others will become more grandiose, and this is good even though it might not adhere to the plan you had in your head. Remember your not married to the plan, at best your just dating it. Life is unpredictable and when it’s all said and done the journey is your life. The plan is just a manifestation of your need to create some form of certainty in the future and deep down you know this is just bullshit. Let your belief in your goals or dreams drive you, but abandon the fucking plan. So what happens when you quit the long term planning game and focus on the short term; you might just find you will be living in the present moment and shit starts to happen for you and I don’t mean bad shit.

Eckhart tolle realize the present moment

Again dream big, have goals, and work towards them, but try just for a while to bring that planning into the short term as tasks that you can actually accomplish. I personally like Google Tasks because it shows up in Gmail and Google Calendar. I then see these tasks when I’m using my laptop, tablet, Chromebook, or my phone. Choose some things you need to get done today, tomorrow, and a week from now and leave it at that. I encourage you to stay focused on today and guess what all the rest of the shit begins to happen for you. Do this for a week and let me know if you start to see and feel the difference in your life.

Namaste