‘Everything changes and nothing stands still’ – Heraclitus
Anicca (impermanence in Pali) is one of the foundational premises of Buddhism and it asserts that all physical and mental events (including ourselves) are not constant or permanent. All events, in the widest sense of the word – physical and mental – come into being, dependent on conditions, change and finally dissolve or decay.
Welcome to one of the big challenges of being human!
I wrote about something similar this time last year and, in a cyclical way, feel drawn to revisit this theme at the end of this school year. And why not? ‘Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?’ wrote Mary Oliver in her poem, The Summer’s Day.
It is so beneficial to take time to feel and be with change, especially through those transitions that are big, multifaceted and perhaps initially difficult to digest. It is necessary to gently and kindly inhabit the present transforming moment so that our understanding has the potential to deepen, and to become whole and thoroughly embodied. We can experience change not just intellectually but fully – emotionally and physically/somatically.
Many emotions accompany change – for example, there can be a restless sea-sawing between fear and excitement. It can be very hard to remain present and connected when the mind jumps forward into a series of ‘what if’s?’ Often, we want everything to stay the same, but at the same time, we crave variety and sometimes we recognise our need for growth. We grasp tightly to how we think things should be and, simultaneously, admire and want something new. Often there can also be grief, as we mourn the loss of the old situation and we are waiting for a safe space to be felt and expressed.
Impermanence, then, is often a source of uncomfortableness, unease or dukkha. How does change really feel for you? I believe that it is possible to soften and relax into the inevitable movement of change and that the particular environment and practices of our school help children navigate this. By stressing the importance of emotional resilience, kindness and mindfulness throughout their time here, we set up habits of mind that can soothe and guide during transitions. It could be a transition from one class and teacher to a new situation, or indeed leaving our school and moving on to secondary school or elsewhere.
We – as staff, parents and carers – are also in a constant process of change, although this is more obvious with our children. Tangibly they are changing, developing and growing up. So we can guide them, with love rather than fear; we can encourage them to find or make space, helping them to come back to the breath, the body and nature, helping them to surf the change moment to moment.
I wrote this poem as a reflection on the process of transition for our Year 6 students:
Transition into increasing complexity –
From safety into less holding,
From the known to the less known,
From the old to the new,
From the small to the bigger pond,
From the oldest to the youngest (again),
Through uncertainty and out the other side,
You are ready! You are ready to leap!
The risk may feel great but there are invisible hands holding you,
A leap of increased choice and independence.
You can trust yourself here,
Though you may be worried,
Though you may be frightened.
We are a safe harbour
Of saying yes, in hope,
Of opening in your own unique way and at your own unique pace,
Of following your arrow (wherever it points),
Of kindness to yourself,
Of winning some and losing some but of having a go nevertheless
Of putting one foot in front of the other –
The present and the next present moment
Of being perfect enough as you.
As we race towards the end of term (while also trying to experience every moment of it) I would like to thank all of you for being such a supportive and fun community of parents, carers and staff. It has been a delight to experience this over the past year and also to receive your frank views, generosity, wisdom and commitment. Sadhu sadhu sadhu! (And have a super break).
[image courtesy of www.infinitehealing.com]