Collectively Embracing Impermanence

A friend standing under a massive banyan in Goa. I always look at trees as inspiration when uncertainty and impermanence stare me in the face. 

A friend standing under a massive banyan in Goa. I always look at trees as inspiration when uncertainty and impermanence stare me in the face. 

On Being’s columnist, Courtney Martin writes her column The Courage to Acknowledge Our Frailty, “the strongest society is the one that can acknowledge its frailty and mortality, too.”

The first thought I had after reading the statement was impermanence. It is an all too alien concept in our current systems and some of our cultures, but embraced by our ancient traditions. We’re taught to embrace impermanence on an individual level, but how to do so collectively? How can we prepare ourselves fully, through the chaos and mess, to evolve just as we are meant to? It’s how the world came to be, it’s how we exist in the first place, it’s the only way.

Some of the most jarring, shocking moments of our lives can pull us out of the little worlds in our minds. We’ve often sat huddled in a corner and then suddenly tugged out of the holding cell we’ve placed ourselves in. It can be death, a sudden tragedy, a personal trauma or something else. It doesn’t have to be bad either. It can be stunning beauty in the most unexpected of places. An awakening, as some people call it. I call it impermanence.

For the longest time, I wasn’t able to fathom many things. Why inequality exists, what it was that made my parents escape poverty, why I was born into the family I was born into, or for god’s sake, what allowed me to be here, living this life in the first place.

At certain parts of my pre-teens and teens it was guilt, but I quickly got over that. Then came the urgency to do something. It was unmistakable and an all too obvious calling to get out of the privileged life I was blessed to have and go show some gratitude out in the world. It was beautiful, but masked with immaturity and the false notion that I could help someone else.

Fast track 6 years and I can’t imagine being here without starting that process. I still feel that urgency burning deep inside of me, something that has manifested into frustration and helpless at some of the weakest points of my life. It’s also brought a lot of questioning, leaving, coming back, and an endless cycle of seeking my truth. In summary, a lot of impermanence.

When people ask me what I’m doing with my life, what activities which keep me busy I can no longer find the right answers. It always becomes a playful game of seeing what keeps me interested today because it is something happening at a deep level, while the externalities come and go. They are what brought me to these realizations that I can no longer remain head above water if I am living defined on what happens out there. Well, isn’t it bad there? I’m often asked of the current climate of the United States. I often think yeah, it is in some ways, but yesterday it was there and today it is here.

I think of the way I have come to grapple with impermanence on my own. How I’ve come to terms that my parents won’t be here forever or how I know that the moments I’m living in continue to bring a new aura of vivacity, pain, or even confusion. As I try to focus on what I know I can do with my two hands, two feet, and beating heart, I still don’t know how I can fully answer that question of how to collectively embrace the impermanence.  

I have some ideas that I’m ready to experiment, but I also know embracing the collective starts with me surfacing what I know is rightfully mine. It starts from a “we” place, as paradox as that may sound. It is what is deep inside of us, waiting to be dug up and uncovered. I’ve come to realize our greatest service is to live an authentic life which is true to our highest values and the core of who we came into this world as. To live an authentic life is to offer our innocence yet our audacity to live and love fearlessly.

Rina PatelComment