With the Holiday Season upon us, I’m reminded how much I love great traditions. And no doubt, with the Holiday Season, comes a plethora of traditions for many communities, organizations, and families.
Traditions have a way of anchoring us – creating a sense of steadiness, stability, and even predictability. Traditions, though, quite often come with a few expectations. In some ways they create some sense of dependability. And in a world filled with disruption and uncertainty, we can come to depend on them, become attached to them … and in doing so create a sense of denial to one great reality:
Everything is always changing.
Often, many will tout the virtues of change. Yet, my good friend, speaker, and author Dr. Kevin Freiberg frequently shares the more likely truth of how most people see change: Change is awesome unless, of course, it is happening to me! Research would prove that some people are wired for change and others find great struggle with it. And while that may be true in changes we initiate; it may hold less true for the inevitable changes throughout the different seasons of one’s life.
Just ask a parent saying goodbye to their beloved child after helping them set-up every aspect of their freshman dorm room as if delaying the inevitable a few more hours might help. Or ask a long-married couple downsizing from the home where they raised their family where every square foot holds precious memories of a past they want to tightly hug, yet can’t hold onto no matter how much they try. Or perhaps the move that follows into an assisted living facility where you feel like you are moving-in with all the “old people” as if you weren’t yet one of them.
Other changes are more subtle – so unnoticeable that you don’t even realize a change is occurring until that yearning grows within you to go back to a place that no longer exists.
I have often said that there is one reason that the “Good Old Days” seem like the good old days – because we have already survived them! There’s no uncertainty about them except for the inaccuracy of how we remember what actually happened backed then.
The late Jesuit Anthony DeMello, in one of my all-time favorite books Awareness, wisely notes that what we resist persists. While there will certainly be some pain in most changes, wise people have noted that this pain is inevitable, yet suffering is optional. Suffering comes in the midst of our resistance that DeMello points out.
I would propose that change in the West is realized through a drive for efficiency, in competition, in the spirit of making something better — which is usually bigger and almost always more. In the East, change is more of an awareness of the reality of the impermanence of every thing. Every single thing.
And more importantly, an acceptance of it.
Acceptance of what is naturally supposed to happen, puts us in a flow with the transformative nature of impermanence. Rather than learning this in the earliest years of our life, we begin a path of education and formation that begins to lock us into a false reality. Almost an unintentional set-up of sorts.
I remember my Mom, in her later years, saying in a very non-judgmental way: Honey, I just don’t know this world anymore. No doubt, an awareness of the magnitude one can experience in their relatively short lifetime. She didn’t fight it, long to go back to what was, but just had a keen awareness of what is.
Impermanence doesn’t give us “more” or “less” – yet it always gives us something new.
Instead of wasting energy resisting the inevitability of change, what might it look like if we welcomed each and every aspect of it as an ongoing adventure? How might that change every experience we encounter? Every relationship that manifest itself in our life journey? Every organization, institution and idea that has been created or discovered.
Acceptance of this impermanence would have implications on our experience of everything: the release of shame’s grip, how we learn, how we team, and how we transform – because we are acutely aware that we are always amid our own personal transformation. It may very well be the key to appreciating, with deep gratitude, the preciousness and uniqueness of every moment.
For each moment uniquely comes … and goes.
It might also be the key that unlocks the paradox of great traditions. They too are impermanent. For it’s impossible to experience a tradition twice in precisely the same way. Even when the tradition is executed in the same way, we are different than the last time we experienced it – and we undermine the beauty of the tradition when we approach it in a repetitive mindset. Oddly enough, old traditions experienced in new ways, create new traditions.
Everything keeps changing. If only we could learn to fully embrace each moment without becoming attached to it, we may very well create a whole new kind of tradition!
May you intentionally let the joy of this one unique once-in-a-lifetime Holiday Season embrace you in completely new ways as you celebrate traditions centuries-old. Maybe somewhere in the midst of it, you will find yourself opening a gift that only impermanence gives you – over and over again – something new.
As always, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and insights below! Best wishes for the Happiest of Holidays!