The experience of impermanence
Updated: Aug 6
Lately, and thanks to having been introduced to Mindfulness practice by my friend Suzanne Jewell, I’ve been hearing a lot about the importance of staying present, in the moment, in the now. I know it sounds cliché, or something easy to do, but is not at all easy. In fact, a Harvard Study conducted by Killingsworth & Gilbertand concluded that forty seven percent (47%) of our waking time we are not present. What it is even more disturbing is that according to the Center For Healthy Minds University of Wisconsin Madison of the 70,000 thoughts we have a day, 80% of them are repetitive and a mere 90% are negative! Our world is literally lost in thought. If body and mind are not in the same place, we are definitely missing on the “present time".
If anything, the pandemic seems to be helping us become more aware of the concept of impermanence. Nothing is forever and things do change from one second to another. The need to “learning to stay” becomes evident now more than ever. We have been disrupted, forced to live under a “new normal” that no one likes, and we all are having to deal with it, like it our not. I am a big fan of Deepak Chopra, and the day I heard him say: “The moment when we recognize that we are a spiritual being having a human experience and not a human being having a spiritual experience”, I literally stepped into a new dimension.
Learning to meditate means getting lost in thought and learning to come back to the now. So, it was no surprise to me, that when thinking of impermanence my mind wondered this morning, to the day I first experienced it.
The. very. hard. way.
I will never forget how fresh and exciting living the “college” life felt those first few months. A whole new environment to acquaint myself with, especially after 17 straight years in the same school (PK to High School!). New people to meet, new experiences to live. There were so many things to discover and me and my friends felt like we had finally started life. The end of High School felt to me like a “Hard Stop”.
Never in a million years, would I have thought that on a sunny afternoon one of my best friends, that happened to be attending the same university than me, was going to be pulling me out of my Accounting class to deliver the news that one of “us” had just been killed in a terrible car accident. There were three people in the car that was being driven by our friend's aunt, and she was the only one dead. She was 18, and today she would have turned 46.
That day changed my entire perspective on life. No one is assured nothing. The fact that you are too young to die means nothing and it can really happen in a split second. Just the day before we had been all together (we were a group of a few inseparable friends). I had dropped off ‘Yayi’, as we called her, one last time in the doorsteps of her building. Strangely enough she had gotten out and hadn’t said goodbye in the fashion she used to. Maybe when things like this happen you read into those last moments when you saw your loved one for the last time. Truth is that we all felt, in the days after her tragic death, that she must have sensed something. The day of the burial, as I saw the casket being lowered down, I made one of the most important promises I have ever made in my life. I have shared this moment with a handful of people, but today, in honor of her birthday I decided to share it with anyone that cares to read. I promised her beautiful soul that I was going to live life for me and for her. That my life would be hers. My happiness and my sorrows and that my responsibility was to make it count for the both of us. Believe it or not, the day I graduated, when I got married and even a few minutes after I was told that my babies were born healthy, one of my first thoughts went always to her. I will continue letting her know that I am still living life for the both of us until is time for me to ‘check-out’ as well. I became committed to seeing good when others see bad. Seeing opportunities when others see problems and seeing beginnings when other see endings. When thinking back, I now realize that somehow all along I have carried some "survival guilt". Why her and not me? We were so young, it just never seemed fair.
Being alive is the greatest gift we receive every day, and when I see people wasting time complaining or just being angry at life, I can’t help but to think they are taking someone else’s spot in the world, someone else that would want to take advantage of the opportunity.
After struggling to control the “waterfall” of thoughts I had around those memories this morning, I mindfully re-focused on my breathing and a smile came to my face.
“I get to live NOW my dear friend, for you and for me”.
Our High-School graduation trip and the way we were (and yes, it was an all girl's Catholic school in case you are wondering where were the guys!). Top Row (L to R): Yayi, Leticia, Cristina, Lemaire, Marian and Patricia (now in heaven with Yayi). Bottom Row: Maria Isabel, Nakhary and Lourdes
In remembrance of Dayana Delpino and Patricia Conejos, I want to share our favorite quote from St. Teresa de Avila, patron of our school:
"Let nothing Disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, Though all things pass, God does not change. Patience wins all things. But he lacks nothing who possesses God; For God alone suffices".