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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Everything Changes

In Lewis Richmond’s book, Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser, Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki is quoted as saying that the “the essential teaching of Buddhism…[is] Everything changes.”

Richmond goes on to write, “he meant that everything changes in horizontal time. In vertical time, things are just as they are. We can’t compare them with how they were before or how they will be after.” (See June 22nd post for more about vertical time.)

I’ll wager that horizontal time is where most of us live: we go through the day mentally recalling the past, imagining the future, and also being present in the here and now. Sometimes, if we’re really focused, we are so present as to not be aware of time even passing. I experience this mostly when I’m writing.

As we age, and the past grows longer, the future shorter, we are aware of exactly how much has changed, especially in our personal lives: transitions we’ve experienced in relationships, work, finances, health, births, deaths, places we’ve lived and traveled, and in our attitudes and beliefs.

Some of the changes we manage seamlessly; others are disruptive, even disturbing and full of distress. Many probably fall somewhere in between. But what seems to be true about change is that we can never fully anticipate how we’ll respond.

Which makes transitions great journal writing exercises. Not only can we record the details, but also reflect on how these changes affect us, i.e., what we think and feel about them. This often will lead to clarity about how we’ve done it in the past and may want to do it in the future, especially those inevitable changes that occur as we age.

And so I encourage readers to try out a journal writing exercise about a meaningful transition in their own lives, then email me their experience of writing about it. I know I’ll be doing more posts about transitions. How could I not? After all, they will continue to pile up just as the years do.

And maybe I can use some of these personal experiences—anonymously, of course—in those posts. They would certainly enrich them.

For information about my journal writing workshops and personal coaching, please email me at

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