Monday, July 27, 2015

Meditation Monday: Embracing Impermanence

By Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC

In an effort to take the “manic” out of “Monday,” this weekly post explores techniques, issues, latest research, and other thoughts on meditation. Nancy facilitates a weekly meditation group at The Awakening Center. For more information, contact her at 773.929.6262, extension 17 or

Sometimes we feel stuck—convinced our suffering will never end. The fact is, our experience is always changing. And even our worst suffering will not—cannot—stay the same. But there are times when we cling to experiences or feelings—we fight impermanence, not wanting to let go. This also leads to suffering as we simply cannot hold onto things that are always changing.
            Change or impermanence does not necessarily mean things are progressing on a straight line. The reality of change is that it tends to be circular, or there is an ebbing and flowing. Sometimes we believe we are stuck in an unwanted emotion or behavior pattern, but if we examine closely, we’ll see there are slight differences—in the behavior, our emotions, our judgments.
            Accepting impermanence allows us to treasure the present moment. Clinging to an experience we simply don’t want to end or despairing that we may emotionally suffer forever takes us out of our bodies and into the trance of thinking. We churn and ruminate. But the world continues to change and evolve whether we notice it or not.
            I created the following imagery to explore the notion of impermanence a bit further.
  • Take a moment and imagine that you are in an orchard of trees—and it is spring time. All the trees are in bloom.    
  • Move in to one particular tree—notice its blooms
  • Notice any emotions or feelings that arise as you look at this flower
  • What does it feel like to enjoy this flower even though you know it will drop and die soon?
  • Now imagine time has passed and the flower has withered and fallen to the ground
  • What emotions arise in you?
  • Does your sense of loss come from worry that you’ll never see another flower as beautiful as this one was? Do you know this to be true?
  • While feeling the loss, invite yourself to connect to gratitude for having the experience of observing the flower. Connect to the hope that spring flowers will come again.

       Accepting impermanence can be the route to hope. We can accept our pain and acknowledge that it won’t last forever—hope can stabilize us as we cope with the reality of our pain. But judgment and self-criticism stifles hope. So it’s important to have a mindfulness practice so that you can catch yourself going down that rabbit hole.
            Whether you accept it or not, change is a part of the human existence. Embracing impermanence can help you be fully present in your life.

Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC is a staff therapist and the intake coordinator at The Awakening Center. In addition to seeing clients for individual therapy, she leads the weekly meditation group and co-leads the Somatic-Experience-Informed Trauma Healing Group. Check and subscribe out her blog “All Shapes and Sizes,” which appears on Chicago Tribune’s media partner

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