Do not worry, this is not all a downer, but we HSPs cannot ignore things, like the rapid change in the last few years. There’s the crazy weather, with floods and droughts, burning forests and smoke everywhere, with evacuations and personal losses. And we now live with face masks (or not) lines for vaccines (or not), and the march of new viruses (no debate there). It seems we are going to have to get used to rapid change. I don’t know about you, but I find some of these changes especially hard to accept, like the loss of beloved redwoods to fires too hot even for them.
Some scientists say we are in the Anthropocene, the geologic age characterized most by humans’ effect on everything. As I have been joking lately, “Climate change is coming to a theater near you.” At least more humans can finally see it and not just walk around like dinosaurs unaware of the comet. (A Cretaceous Era joke.)
Impermanence Has Always Been Permanent
A philosopher might say we are in the Age of Impermanence. But it has always been a major topic in philosophy, dating back to the early Greeks and Hindus. “Impermanence” is a word that entered my social group with the popularity of Buddhism. Many teachings are attributed to Buddha—more than he ever had time to say in his impermanent life. But we are certain that almost his first words after becoming Buddha (meaning enlightened) was that everything is always changing, and that this impermanence is the cause of suffering because we cling to things, like youth, or loved ones, or life itself, that are bound to go. “But you can never miss what you never believed you had.”
According to Buddha, by realizing the truth of impermanence and giving up all attachment, perhaps helped by meditation, you could reach nirvana and be freed of karma and the cycle of birth and death. Wow. Maybe not your vision or mine of happiness, but there’s Buddha’s solution.
The Hindus also hold that everything is impermanent, but to them it is not all a source of suffering. In particular, knowledge that one’s self is actually part of the Self (the unbounded, permanent absolute) is a source of joy, again usually found through meditation. Buddha would say that that knowledge too is impermanent. Whatever.
What is Your Solution?
I think most HSPs have already found a way to handle impermanence, but for some of you it may be time to hit the refresh key. I cannot give you my answer, because that would not be yours, and maybe you can even improve on the thinking of all those old guys.
I will start a list and you can finish it. Some of these are mutually exclusive, some not, but even those that are can be used on different days!
- Do everything you can to fight the changes you do not like. What you do also changes things.
- Face impermanence only enough to know it is there, but not so much that it takes away all joy in life. We HSPs have always had to be good at this. We imagine the worst and prepare or philosophize. Then figure out how to live here, now.
- Develop equanimity. Like Buddha did. Build equanimity like a muscle, one that even grows with age. Feel it about smaller things first. Break something? “Okay. I can live without that.” Car won’t start? “Whatever. Just have to get it fixed.” Mad at someone? “Yeah, sure, been there, felt that, and I’m done with it.” There are bigger, hard changes I know. Sure, get upset. You may need to act, too. But also go to “This is hard, but I can figure it out, maybe get some help.” Muscles.
- Meditate. I have daily (TM) for 50 years and it does build those muscles, trust me on that.
- Celebrate change, at least a little. One thing must go for another thing to come into being. I bet you can think of at least one time when a loss seemed horrible, but now you see it was for the best.
- Look at the big picture. Before the Anthropocene there was the Holocene (ended with the last Ice Age—Ice Ages must have been fun). What will come after the Anthropocene? Maybe something pretty good. Thus far the march of the ‘cenes has done us well.
- Trust in the permanent, whatever that is for you. Really? Permanent? Yes. Plato did, among other philosophers, so you would be in good company. No, I do not mean the permanence of rude drivers. Something bigger than that. Maybe just the laws of nature, always operating. Can you live in tune with them? Or bigger than the biggest big picture, the One or What that came before all pictures. If you like praying to it or its representatives, do it. Again, you are in good company.
- Now add to the list. You are an HSP. You can do it.