Where is the intersection between commitment and impermanence? And why should we care?
Most of us have faced some troubles around commitment at different points in our lives. Maybe you can think back to a time when you found it hard to commit to a new relationship, project or decision. Or maybe there was a time when you did commit, but you had to struggle to keep things from falling apart. Maybe there is an area in your life where this is happening right now. If any of this sounds familiar, this article is for you.
Where there is a fear of commitment, there is a fear of failure.
If we knew things would work out and be OK, why would we be afraid to commit? Doesn’t make sense, right? In a world where everything works, there couldn’t be such a thing as fear of commitment!
When we go further down the rabbit hole, however, things get even more interesting. Why are we afraid to fail? Well, it’s because we’ve seen things fall apart and we know it hurts so we want to avoid it. Why does it hurt when we fail? Because we want our creations and our relationships to flourish and LAST and when they don’t we suffer. We could go into the biological reasons for it – it requires energy and effort to change, so we like our things steady and stable.
Nature gave us pain to ensure we keep things as they are whenever possible.
But nature gave us something else too – it gave us our conscious mind which has the power to choose the way it responds to circumstances. It’s like that old joke about the two shoes salesmen who were the first to get to Africa. One said: ‘This is hopeless, nobody’s wearing shoes here!’. The other said: “Wow, what a market opportunity! Nobody’s wearing shoes here!”. We all have both of those guys as voices in our heads – whatever happens, we can choose the one we want to listen to.
So now that we have a conscious mind, what do we do with failure? How do we tell ourselves a better-feeling story around that? Well, first we need to go through acceptance of a basic truth about our lives and this universe – the truth of impermanence.
In a universe where all things get to keep their form for a limited amount of time, we are really denying reality when we insist things should last!
Everything that exists and ever existed goes through phases of birth, life and death, after which it transforms into something else and starts over. This applies to galaxies and stars, it applies to all living beings, to our relationships and everything we might ever create. In Eastern philosophy this is the principle of anicca that is the core of many spiritual practices. It’s the reason why Buddhist monks take days and even weeks to create beautiful colourful sand mandalas (like the one below) and then destroy them as soon as they are finished. It’s the reason why millions of people go to Vipassana centres to spend 10 days meditating on the impermanence of everything they experience in body & mind.
Once we’ve experienced the peace of accepting impermanence, our inner world is transformed.
The funny thing is, unless we remind ourselves of it, it’s easy to fall back into our default modes of attachment. Let me give you an example. Recently, I caught myself attaching my sense of contribution to creating something big that lasts, so I could say I’ve succeeded and get myself off the hook. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big. However, it went together with a refusal to accept that it might take many failures and changes to get there, that I might not get there at all, that even if I get there, sooner or later whatever I create is going to die, because that’s a law of this universe. And what does it mean to get ‘there’ anyway?
Where I was failing truly was actually in seeing the impact I was already having! So many people I’ve worked with and spoken to lately have went out of their way to express their deep gratitude for my support and influence on them. Why wouldn’t I count those in my contribution account? Why does it need to be big and solid and lasting? As soon as I decided to celebrate impermanence in my creations and relationships, everything started flowing again in the direction of what I was dreaming of creating after months of being stuck. Which is why if you find yourself in a similar space, I’d like to share with you two questions that you can use to recalibrate any time you get blocked by fear of commitment, fear of failure or simply refusal to accept impermanence:
1. What do I commit to?
The key to this question is answering from your heart. Why are you on this Earth? What do you want to bring to your experience and that of others? What makes you feel alive? To distinguish your heart’s answer from your brain’s answer, you need to know that your heart will not speak in specifics. Your heart will want to express things like connection, love, freedom, trust, care in your creations and relationships. If you are thinking places, people, specific shapes, weighing options etc that’s your brain speaking. Bear in mind we don’t want to discard the brain’s help! We want to let our heart give us the DIRECTION, so that the brain can take over and figure out the route afterwards. To do that, often it helps to slow down, close your eyes, ask your heart what it wants the most in this moment and WAIT and TRUST it will answer. It always does.
2. What is a shape of that I want to play with?
Now once you have your heart’s answer, it’s time to allow yourself to explore ideas and options. It can be as simple as ‘I’m going to follow X and see where it takes me’ where X is what you’ve committed to. It can be that you have lots of ideas – which one inspires you the most right now? Go for it, you can always change course and come back to another one. If you truly embrace impermanence in the shapes your heart’s desire can and will take in time, it becomes playful, fun, creative, wild to explore those shapes. And that’s how it needs to be so you can find something that sticks! And even after you find that, it has to keep on being so so that you can collaborate with the universal law of impermanence instead of fighting against it!
So whenever you find yourself afraid to commit or fail (or both), ask your heart ‘what is it that I truly want?’. Then give yourself and the world PERMISSION to explore the different forms that can take.
Those forms will come and go, but you will enjoy the process of moving in the direction your heart is telling you to move. And that’s what commitment actually is.
About The Paradise Vlog
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The ‘The Paradise Vlog’ youtube channel is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you – an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves. I also love creating spaces for growth-oriented people to connect to their soul power and life purpose. I do that in the form of coaching, shamanic work and workshops. Reach out if you feel curious to explore these topics with me.