Many years before I began my meditation practice, I unconsciously considered my feelings related to loss and grief a personal failure, as if I somehow should have understood and been prepared for death automatically. My grandmother died in my early twenties, and the loss was devastating- the impact of this profound transition was shocking. My inability to recognize that death and impermanence are normal features of existence compounded my suffering leading to a personalization of the loss. I blamed myself for not “getting over” her death. I could not be kind to myself as I grieved. I made the natural process of grief into a personal shortcoming.
You see, on an everyday, practical level, impermanence is easy to grasp. Things change as time passes, the seasons rise and fall, and babies learn to crawl and then walk. Change is happening around us and to us all the time. This is a foundational teaching of Buddhism. However, when it comes to personal loss, the Buddha’s teaching on impermanence isn’t as easy to accept. Even though change implies the exiting of the old to make way for the new, the shock of loss can catch any one of us by surprise at any time, as my younger self found out.
Time and seasons have passed, and as I have studied the dharma I have discovered aspects of impermanence within which I have found a deep healing. The simple and heartfelt acknowledgment of change has been consistently soothing and because of it I am far less prone to expecting conditions, people, or myself to stay the same. That isn’t to say I don’t still grieve or undergo stress, but I know it will pass.
As the natural impulse to cling to the present state of things and people has faded, I am far more likely to seek resources for adapting to change when challenging, sad, or unpredicted circumstances arise. This includes tapping into care and compassion for myself and others. It also includes finding an acceptance of the present and using it as a foundation for actively minimizing suffering for myself and those around me. And now, 25 years on from the death of my grandma, this opening to the possibility of flowing with life’s changes has removed much of the day-to-day stress from my life. As my practice grows, I aspire to deepen my appreciation of life as continuous flux and flow – to rest in this truth. This is the gift of impermanence.
Eileen Ybarra began studying Theravada Buddhism meditation practice in 2004 with Trudy Goodman and has since studied at Insight Meditation Center of Redwood City and Durango Dharma Center amongst others. Eileen has completed two 1-year long facilitator training programs with the Against the Stream Meditation Society as well as the ‘Dedicated Practitioners Program’ at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. She is also a regular InsightLA teacher at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and online with the Middle-ish and Youngish practice Groups.
Eileen is teaching Everyday Wisdom: The Three Marks of Existence, an in-person 3-week series starting Wednesday, June 28, 2023 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM PT located at Benedict Canyon Retreat House.
Want more posts like this delivered weekly to your inbox?
Subscribe to our newsletter for weekly blog posts, inspiration, classes and much more!