Impermanence and Holiday Gatherings

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river and he is not the same man.” Heraclitus

The only constant is change. (Paraphrased, Heraclitus)

Heraclitus lived around 500 BCE and spent most of his adult life trying to educate people about the concept of impermanence. In Buddhism, also to paraphrase, one of the Four Noble Truths states that human beings cause their own suffering by not recognizing the reality of impermanence. We get attached to people, places, outcomes, and when these things change (as is inevitable) we feel pain.

Happiness is fleeting, as is everything – things we love and things we don’t love. “This too shall pass” can serve as a reminder that people change, situations change. Plants, animals, buildings, material possessions all come and go. People we love leave us.

The holidays can be a difficult time in that they remind us of impermanence of the people around us. We are starkly reminded of loved ones we have lost – people who “should” be here, around the dinner table, but are not.

Feelings of grief fight for a space at our holiday gatherings and it is just these feelings, over time, that allow for the richness and depth of our loves expression. It is the crack in a Japanese pot filled with gold (kintsugi) and the possibility of healing with remembrance, so that the holidays are not just hollow, shiny, “happy”.

Mindfulness is a practice of being present with whoever and whatever surrounds you. Mindfulness allows you to appreciate the impermanence of people at your table at this moment with gratitude and love. And mindfulness encourages one to experience the feelings of sorrow about those gone from the table – not with anger or wishful thinking, but with honor and love. Reach for gratitude for both the moments of the past and for the gift of the present.

All of us at The Evolution Group wish you a compassionate and comforting holiday experience.

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