January 14, 2021

How to Embrace Impermanence when we Crave a Return to Normalcy.

I sit upon the light grey cushion in my bedroom and burn palo santo wood beside me.

The dry, woodsy scent mixes with the crisp air that blows in through my bedroom window. The smoke rises into a thick cloud and twirls along my ceiling. I inhale and release the wind from my chest in search of calm. But, the quiet I wish for evades me—again and again.

Instead, scattered energy emerges in its place.

This disruption, the restlessness which runs like pricking pins down my spine, I know. And, I whisper, “Hello” to this old, unwanted friend. The words, “let go, accept impermanence” break into my thoughts.

This is my intruder: the unwillingness to accept change and the clinging to my attachments. But, I want to scream, a terrible virus, joblessness, social strife, and sadness; they’re everywhere and in everyone I know.

Yes, I hold on tightly—maybe, even too tightly—to the people and the things I love the most. And, I question if it’s even possible to live without those attachments. I understand the importance of letting go, especially of what is unhealthy, like hoarding, alcohol dependency, and toxic relationships. And, yeah, I know all about discipline and moderation.

But, please, tell me how to detach from craving normalcy and wanting people to be healthy, safe, and comfortable. I must admit, I resent my spiritual practices for suggesting I live without my attachments to those desires.

I close my eyes and think of nature, and wildlife, and of a lioness in her habitat. I watch her witness one of her cub’s deaths. She walks back to her den with her head down, visibly broken. When she emerges not long afterward, she begins again. She carries on—hunting and caring for herself and the other cubs.

Her wounding is with her, but it doesn’t control or hinder her. It is a new day, for better or for worse. She has learned to live with an acceptance for all of life’s imperfections.

I think of her psychology in contrast to mine. The agony of my hardships, the losses I witness, and my grief—they take up space within my heart. Some, I wear like the clothes I take off and on, and others I’ve swallowed whole. Each day my heart breaks a little more from the pain I choose to relive.

Psychologists might say the lioness and I have different attachment styles and coping strategies based upon our early experiences. I don’t disagree with them; but, what is overlooked is my resistance, my refusal to see what the lioness inherently understands—everything is temporary.

This truth exists, not because we are a different species, but because life is delicate and unpredictable. There is no amount of denial, careful planning, or wishing thinking that will alter this universal law.

I sink into my soft, grey cushion with a willingness to let go of wanting everything to be right and perfect. I watch the rings of the palo santo smoke float out the window—washing everything clean.

I softly release my clutching to positive circumstances and pleasant outcomes. And, gently, I relinquish my opposition to all the negativity I witness.

With the heart of a lioness, I breathe into this awakening, and exhale with acceptance—to begin again, and again.

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