Anicca is the Pali word for impermanence and I first came across it in 2018, during my 10-day silent meditation retreat. When guiding sessions, S.N. Goenka usually says it three times anicca, anicca, anicca, so the imprint of it has been vivid in my mind. In the last year, though, it has become a mantra, and I utter the word to myself as an instrument for change in my attitude to what is going on.
I went into lockdown in 2020 in the midst of the most painful grief. Life was showing me its law of impermanence and all I could think of was how cruel it was, how much I did not want things to be the way they were. A bit like when you fall down and you notice that gravity is both a law and a force. And it hurts. Little did I know then that grief would be a teacher too. The first year of a loss is a time of firsts: birthday, Christmas, summer, return to classes, celebrations … A whole year without Rosina … But even those feelings were not permanent, they kept changing and some of them have got easier to be with.
Now that we have also done the first year of lockdown and we have been through a full cycle, it feels both duller and never-ending. My experience of a second year of grief is spontaneous sadness. Things have normalised but I find myself thinking about what was before and missing the small things terribly. Now, everybody is busy again – sometimes more than before – and there is no longer the spirit of the first months of lockdown. And yet, more than ever, this is when we need each other, when togetherness is most felt and appreciated. We feel we should now be good at all the things that were imposed on us because we have been a year doing zoom, living constantly together in our apartments, hosting celebrations and meetings all online, holding ourselves in a strange normality, working, living, socialising, dancing from home … But this is far from true. These things have become harder now. We need to be compassionate, even more than before because ours and others’ resources might be running thinner than we think. This is why, during the Easter break, my studio will be opening its virtual doors to anyone who wants a supportive space to just be (see below).
The law of impermanence is also at work in a pandemic, even if it does not seem so. All physical and mental events are not constant or permanent; they came into being around March 2020 and will dissolve. Nothing like meditating on sound or breath to find this out. Try it, take time to notice it. This, for me, is the big lesson of the pandemic, perhaps of my life. Only then you will realise that this situation will end and can live with more ease. But the ending of lockdown and pandemic days can be a loss too, loss of the time we are now spending with close family, or away from busy social lives … I have personally enjoyed the simplicity of my life and found it healing. Whatever arises, the only thing we can do is to live the present moment fully and acknowledge what is here.