November 2, 2011

Change is stability.

At Home with Anicca

Anyone who has been to a Vipassana course is familiar with the word “anicca.” Everyone alive is familiar with the concept: impermanence. For those who has not subjected themselves to a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation course before, the Pali pronunciation is “AH-NEE-CHA.”

Vipassana (insight) meditation technique one realizes and embraces anicca, the law of impermanence. Everything that arises will sooner or later pass away.

Three years ago, I was a bilingual elementary school teacher in Austin, Texas looking to move abroad and become an international school teacher. I’d lived in Texas most of my life, though I’d been fortunate to travel around the US, Mexico, Europe and India.

Today, again, I am looking toward the next horizon. Living in Guatemala has been, and is, fascinating. But my intuition is beginning to speak up. To sing, actually. Just like Tom Petty. “Time to move on… time to get goin’… what lies ahead I have no way of knowin’…”


Impermanence is easy to see when you are a part of the school system. Every year, old teachers leave and new teachers arrive. Every August, we meet our fresh-faced students and memorize their names and categorize their skill levels and organize our engaging lessons to inspire and educate them. Every June we go nuts with jubilation at the prospect of summer vacation. We watch these children sprout and evolve before our very eyes.

I adore Guatemala. This chapter of my life has been (is) transformational. I have taught both English and mindfulness to elementary, middle and high school students as a classroom teacher in grades 3, 8 and 9. I now have six years of school teaching experience and a decade of teaching yoga and mindfulness.

I’ve gone from stumbling over my words to being comfortable holding deep conversations and teaching yoga classes en puro español. I have loved and been loved and been heartbroken and loved again. I’ve learned new words, gotten lost in remote villages, hiked volcanoes, and so much more, beyond explanation.

Maybe above all, I have taught myself how adaptable I really am. I did it: I uprooted myself in six weeks flat, moved my life to Central America and thrived! So much so that I am tempted to keep on keeping on right here in Guatemala. But all signs point to no. I may end up back here one day, but for now, I need to venture into uncharted territory. I need to keep teaching, keep learning, keep saving, keep moving.

Anicca. Anicca. Anicca. Everything that arises passes away sooner or later.

It’s a fact of life. You know it, I know it. And yet we so often want to deny the fact. Pretend like things can stay the same, relationships can stay the same, people don’t change, there is some semblance of sameness, of control. The sooner we can accept the reality of constant change, the better. Breathe it in. The present moment only lasts a moment. Change is the only constant. The only “stability” to be found is in change itself.

I leave you with the poem “Unconditional” by Jennifer Welwood. This pretty well sums up my best intentions and highest hopes for my life (and yours):

Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to meet my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe,
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant, jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this master game.
To play it is purest delight;
To honor its form – true devotion.

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