Almost a decade ago, I traveled to India to do my yoga teacher training. It was a transformative experience, but it wasn’t the physical practice of yoga that changed my life the most. While we did learn yoga asanas, it was learning to practice mindfulness that really changed my outlook and made me feel more grounded in my life.
One of the most powerful mindfulness lessons I learned during my time at the ashram was this too shall pass. Of course, I’d heard this popular phrase before, but in the context of mindfulness, it took on a new meaning. And now, as we navigate and adjust our lives during the current global health crisis, this phrase has taken on additional significance.
For me, the idea that this too shall pass is all about letting go of attachment to our experiences and living in the present moment — something many of us want to do, but which runs contrary to how most of us are taught to live.
Many of us go through life either living in the past or anticipating the future. We cling to moments of pleasure, hoping it will last forever, and we actively resist suffering, hoping it will end — but neither of these experiences serves us.
In fact, whether we have poured our attention into prolonging the experience of a short-lived pleasure, like getting a promotion, falling in love, or buying a fancy new house, or investing our energy into railing against negative experiences, like falling ill, losing money, or experiencing heartbreak, we allow these experiences to define who we are in some way. We fall into bad habits of thinking, “This is who I am,” or “This is my life,” or even, “I hate this,” or “I’m unlovable.”
In either scenario, we often develop a static picture of what’s happening to us and in doing so, we become stuck and forget that, inevitably, all experiences and emotions eventually pass.
Living in the Present and Anchoring to the Self
When we live mindfully, we are no longer at the mercy of what happens to us. We can have a range of experiences and emotions without getting hung up on them. We let all moments arise and dissipate, like clouds in a blue sky. We acknowledge and express gratitude for positive moments, and we acknowledge and express gratitude for negative moments.
Most importantly, with mindfulness we understand and experience all moments as ephemeral — knowing that this moment too shall pass.
Living mindfully allows us to remain consistently anchored to the self and to our values instead of to our experiences. This means that we can maintain perspective on our experiences of pleasure and of suffering. We still acknowledge and have a range of experiences and emotions, but we don’t anchor ourselves to them.
Instead, our inner selves become the steadfast core around which everything else moves. Picture a solid marble pillar at your core: the good moments and the bad moments swirl around the pillar, but the pillar never moves because it’s solid and unchanging. You may have moments of euphoria and moments of feeling like you can’t get out of bed, but these moments pass. And when they do, you’re still there — still strong and standing in your power.
So how do you find that steadfast core? If you want to feel anchored and connected to your true self, you’ll have to do some deep self-work to get there. You need to understand who you are, what your purpose is, what your values are, and what gives your life its meaning, all of which will help you to develop a strong connection to your inner self.
When we live anchored to ourselves instead of to our experiences, everything improves — our relationships, how we feel about ourselves, and the decisions we make. When we embrace mindfulness, we are better prepared for life’s ups and downs.
Ultimately, in letting go and knowing that this too shall pass, we can experience true freedom.
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