The Suffering of Change Is Not Inevitable

The suffering of change is not inevitable. When we deeply understand the nature of impermanence, we no longer feel like life has broken some unspoken promise to us when things that we enjoy change, or when things we don’t like don’t change fast enough. The two emotions that arise as symptoms of this type of suffering are craving and clinging. Craving is when we develop a tension filled hope to acquire something or someone. This grasping mood is laced with a skewed perception based mainly on seeing the positive attributes of this acquisition. While we are entangled in the fantasy of having what we want, it feels good, so it is harder for us to detect the subtle or coarse suffering involved, than for example when we feel angry or resentful, emotions which make us feel miserable right away. This type of desire is distinguished from wholesome ambition which is free of rigidity and edginess. Wondering if this thing we want will help us to be more free of suffering and/or of benefit to others is a good question to ask ourselves when we feel a strong compulsion to pursue something. Clinging is described in the Buddha’s dharma as a strong feeling of rigidity about something we already possess that we are afraid will be taken from us, which again is a tension filled state of fear, forgetting its nature is to change.

The suffering of change relates with this inevitable polarization between hope and fear, craving and clinging.

To begin to free ourselves from these ancient human tendencies, we will first need to acknowledge these feelings when they arise, and relate to them in a new way, one that is not so addictively compelled to stick to them. If we do not admit to ourselves that we are feeling this way, we will not be able to skillfully work with them and eventually become free of their overwhelming capacity to color our world.

Today, in the spirit of compassion toward yourself, make a strong resolve to recognize the flavors of craving or clinging in you (whether strong or mild), and each time, pause and take a few slow conscious breaths, imagining the out breath spreading soft radiant light throughout your body, releasing all tension within you.