Impermanence and Letting Go

In Personal Development, Philosophy by EudaimoniaLeave a Comment

Most of life’s biggest challenges that people end up agonizing over arise from the inability to let a piece of themselves go when the time arises. Think about it. I mean really think about it. Letting go of loved ones. Letting go of pets. Letting go of romantic relationships. Letting go of youth. Letting go of times past. Letting go of false notions of themselves. Letting go of dreams. Letting go of a desired life pathway. Letting go of the fact your favorite brand of yogurt isn’t made anymore. Whatever it is, whether monumental in perception or minor in comparison, it’s all letting go of a piece of yourself.

People spend hours and hours of every day concerned with the notion of letting something go. Hell if someone pisses me off on the way to work when they cut me off (without using a blinker) I have a hard time letting it go.

Why is letting go of a preconceived notion of what life should be – so damn hard for us intelligent humans? Well to begin with, we are intelligent creatures.

We’ve developed a prefrontal cortex within the brain through more than one hundred thousand years of evolution that has provided us a means to survive – a means to pass our genes on (strictly speaking in the Richard Dawkin’s sense).

It’s the portion of the human brain that allows for planning; it directly resulted in prehistoric humans knowing when the seasons would come and when to plant crops.

It’s the portion of the brain that allowed man to realize a tiger as a threat in the wild.

It’s the portion of the brain that promoted the formation of society, and portion of the brain that is used when any decision-making is processed.

In any thought formation, within an instance of time the mind performs a query searching the millions of memories of the past in order to form a new decision – in order to postulate the correct response.

The mind is a magnificent tool.

These very memories are the bedrock of the survival of our species as a whole. These memories have insured survival by being past down from generation to generation in the form of spoken word, written word, music, art, and theatre.

They are in a sense immortal, but are they? The questionable notion of whether memories are immortal precisely parallels the problem people have while letting go in life.

Memories are very much mortal, and thereby fragile, in nature. Memories are our existence, and by virtue of the transitive property, we know our very own existence is fragile.

There are two defined reasons for impermanence of existence that can be summed up nicely both with science and poetry.

  • Scientifically speaking -the brain is constantly rewiring, making new connections to better serve us as an organism as we age. Like pruning of your trees or bushes the brains plasticity and resultant rewiring results in twists and turns of prior memories – cutting out the superfluous filler while keeping the most important parts. The parts that were (or were to be) critical to the outcome of the memory. You know – the juicy bits! The brain is reformatted much like that of any computer hardrive to allow for the most efficient use of resources and by nature the best function possible.
  • Poetically speaking – The universe is always in constant change and impermanence is the governing force behind everything. No two years are the same, no two days are the same, and no two moments are ever the same. Even a single moment shared intimately between two people is not the same.

“No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” –Heraclitus

You once probably thought you’d be an astronaut when you were a child, and most likely that didn’t work out. You most likely thought your dream job would be working in quality control at a candy company…that didn’t happen either. Why would any perceived idea you have now about your wants and needs of the future be any truer?

IF impermanence rules supreme, and change is the only thing that endures, why does the mind hold on to a situation or fixed idea as if it is dogma that will withstand the sands of time? Why would it do this even when it knows it will rewrite it’s own memories?

It comes down to the false notion of control. You believe you can control your life. You believe that down to the very detail of the day, or moment, your free will can dictate the direction the moment takes you. Newsflash – your free will only affects your capacity to accept a situation, leave a situation, or change the situation. The presented moment exists while saying fuck-off to your free will. The present moment is all there is and it cares not about your feelings. If life is the dance, you can either be the dancer, or the unhappy curmudgeon sitting by the bar watching the girl of his dreams pleadingly (or perhaps quite seductively) beckoning him onto the dance floor.

Don’t be the curmudgeon, go dance, go live your life.

Live the moment as if it will never exist again. Know the gift you’ve been given- the moment you’ve been dealt is never right or wrong, is never bad or good, it just is. Letting go of the idea of how a moment should be, while surrendering yourself to what is, allows us to fully experience and love our life. Don’t make expectations of the universe and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.