Adaptation is one of life’s most valuable skills.
Life is fluid, dynamic, and uncertain. We try to build stable foundations and shelters to keep us protected. We save up money or we sign a marriage contract. What if we lose our jobs and burn through our savings? What if our spouse leaves us? Our stability is false because the outside environment is not something we can control. We can however, control how we adapt.
Everything ends and that’s okay. We all know that we could die any day. This thought shouldn’t be terrifying, it should be motivating. If we truly understood that nothing lasts, then why do we cling so tightly to objects and transitory states? We chase highs and we buy perishable items hoping they will bring us lasting happiness. When we grant them such power over us, we also grant them power to devastate us when they end, break, or die.
Attachment and clinging
“The root of suffering is attachment” – Buddha
The second noble truth in Buddhist teachings states that our suffering is a result of our tendency to clinging and aversion. When we like something, we want it to stay consistent. If we taste that first bite of chocolate, we want each bite after to taste just as good. If we love something we want it to stay the same. We don’t want good relationships to end or those new shoes to fade.
Clinging to objects or people makes the natural flow of life look threatening. Instead of welcoming change, we fear it. Sometimes we hold on to things that have ended desperately and can’t move forward.
Once you realize that the world around you is in a constant state of flux, you will learn to enjoy the moment. In a place of moment-to-moment appreciation we can live in each experience without clinging to it or rejecting it. In the moment old fears and regrets don’t matter, just as future anxieties become irrelevant. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “We touch the ground of being and see that which we have called being and nonbeing are just notions. Nothing is ever lost. Nothing is ever gained.”
Adaptation is living
Adaptation is the process of change by which we become better suited to our environment. As we live in our moment-to-moment environment we learn to adapt to change, instead of resist it. We see changes as new opportunities for growth. We realize that our current state, where we live, what we look like, how we feel emotionally, is all temporal. This helps us better appreciate the present and stop fearing the unknown.
Sit in a quiet place and think about the things you have that you want to last forever. Ask if these things are permanent. Could you live without them? This could be your money, your physical appearance, your relationship, or your career. Write down the top five things you cling to. Imagine a life where you no longer have one of these things and meditate on adapting to that change.