Accepting the 'relentless impermanence' of life

I’ve been very interested in Buddhism of late.

I blame this on Teri Goudie. She turned me onto Dan Harris after I complained that Eckhart Tolle’s book, “A New Earth,” was a bit too esoteric for me. Harris’ book, “10% Happier,” offered a more pragmatic approach, she told me. So I read the book, started listening to his podcast and got hooked.

Buddhists like lists, and so do I. I especially like the Buddha’s first list, the Four Noble Truths. They are, as translated by Harris, life will be unsatisfying if you cling to things that will not last, the cause of our suffering is clinging, there is a way out of this mess and the way out of this is to follow the Eightfold Path.

I am particularly intrigued by the Buddha’s notion of what Harris has termed “relentless impermanence” — the constantly changing nature of things — and the futility of fighting this change. I see so many applications of this concept in my day-to-day life.

On Monday my father-in-law moved to a new room at his assisted living facility, one that is a better fit for him. We visited on Sunday to see him and take a look at his belongings. Most moved with him, but some were donated. Among the latter was a large recliner — part of a his-and-hers matching set — that he and my mother-in-law bought when they moved in.

Ainsley was with us this weekend and was completely distraught that we are giving away Gram’s chair. She wanted us to keep it and even offered to pay for movers to bring it to our house (not realizing she’s a little short of funds for this type of expense).

I didn’t expect this move to upset her the way it has, but when I stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense. She wants to hold onto the time when Gram was alive and they could spend time together. Since Gram and Papa’s house was torn down and now Papa is moving out of the room he shared with her, there are fewer and fewer physical objects that were connected to her life.

Ainsley’s pain is a concrete example of what happens when we try to cling to something or someone in the face of relentless impermanence.

Death certainly is a difficult way to lose someone, but it’s not the only way. Friends come and go in life, and sometimes I find myself clinging to friendships that seem to have run their course.

And because I have trouble letting go of people I have enjoyed having in my life, I torture myself trying to find an explanation for what went wrong. Did I say something I shouldn’t have the last time we were together? Did I text too often? Not enough?

Even if I could find the answers to these questions, the situation wouldn’t necessarily be any different.

Not all friendships are for life. We will lose people we love, to death and other circumstances.

Change is constant. Clinging causes suffering.

I need to feel my grief, accept these losses and let go. Anything else will only cause me unnecessary pain.

— Pamela Lannom is editor

of The Hinsdalean. Readers

can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean