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.