“Change has easily been my greatest teacher, and my rejection of change has been my greatest cause of sorrow,” writes bestselling author Diego Perez under the pen name yung pueblo in his new book Lighter. Perez says his biggest life lesson has been the truth of impermanence, and that although it may seem paradoxical, the most promising path to security is learning to let go.
As a mother prone to worrying, I asked Perez how we can truly let go when it feels as if we’re biologically programmed to continuously try to protect ourselves and our families. Perez replied, “While of course we do our best for the people we love, what I’ve found is that if we constantly live in survival mode, it makes life very hard. So much is simply out of our hands. If we’re trying to control every aspect of reality, we’re not going to be in alignment with what’s actually true, because what’s true is that everything arises and passes away.”
Perez believes that much of our fierce urge to protect is actually the product of the conditioning we were born into—an inherited fear-based state of mind. “When Buddha started meditating, he was unlocking the full potential of human nature that wasn’t dependent just on biology. The openness of the liberation he experienced, and his deep embrace of impermanence, were evolutionary in nature, moving humanity forward in a very powerful way.”
In Lighter, Perez explains that fear is essentially a craving for safety. “A mind dominated by fear is a mind still in survival mode. Even when there is relative calm in our external environment, a mind that lives in survival mode will adopt a defensive stance and explore imaginary scenarios of what could go wrong as a way to remain prepared.”
Perez says that viewing our attachments to the people and things we love as a form of security is “one of the biggest mirages that human beings have fallen for.” In fact, there is no security in attachment—nothing but pain, confusion, and misdirection. “Real security can only be found in a deep embrace of impermanence.”
Perez laughed gently as he told me, “We fight change with all our might, but we always lose because change is going to win in the end. When we stop fighting the truth of change, the love we have for whatever we hold dear becomes purer because the element of control isn’t as predominant.”
Taking a pragmatic approach, Perez says, “Since change is something that we can’t escape, there is no other option than to fully embrace it.” He believes that it is our relationship to change that greatly determines the level of peace we experience. “The wisest and happiest people I’ve met are continuously immersed in the truth of change.”
The Positive Aspects of Change
Perez wants us to remember that if we spend too much time fearing change, we will forget to celebrate it. “All the things we love come into being because the ups and downs of change have given them their shape,” Perez writes. “The people we cherish, the moments that bring us joy, the love we’ve felt, the victories that help us heal and live better—all these things are facilitated by change. If all things were static, there would be nothing new. Our very lives are the product of change.”
Perez reminds us that human beings can never stay the same. “At the core of what we truly are is change. Our power, and the reason that healing is even possible, lies in the fact that with intention we can give the natural flow of change within us a clear direction, as opposed to just unconsciously riding the ups and downs of life.”
While he acknowledges that often “endings are louder than beginnings,” Perez asserts that we also need to consciously recognize and honor that the sweetest parts of life are brought about by change. “Instead of passively hating change, we are better off trying to understand it. Change may take things away, but it is also the great giver that fills us with happiness and wisdom. …When we live with the truth of change, everything that is good becomes brighter and everything that is hard becomes more tolerable.”
Learning to Embrace Change
So how can we begin to release our fears and embrace change? Perez explains that letting go is essentially a profound acceptance of the present moment. “To be able to accept what is, we have to relinquish our hold on how we wish things to be.”
When we believe that our happiness can be determined by a particular outcome, we strive to control reality rather than living in the present moment. Perez urges people to spend more time observing versus reacting, which illuminates how the mind combats the natural flow of change due to craving and attachment—imagining what is missing or how we wish things would be. “Cravings quickly become attachments that try to mold reality into something it is not. Cravings are a rejection of reality as it is. … Every attachment is a form of rebellion against impermanence.”
Perez maintains that everything shifts when we realize that it is our reaction to challenges, rather than the challenges themselves, that cause so much tension and struggle. “Before you can set yourself free, you first need to understand how you make things harder for yourself. Many of us do not realize how we get stuck in a reactive loop, always allowing external events to dictate how we feel, without fully accepting that our real power emerges from training our mind to observe.”
Advising people to take the time to tune into the countless ways change continually manifests, Perez says we should intentionally cultivate an “appreciation of the continuous stream of beginnings and endings.” But learning to let go requires more than intellectual reflection. “A lot of letting go happens through being able to feel what’s real inside of you—feeling as opposed to thinking.”
Perez firmly believes that we all need a practice that helps us experience the reality of impermanence directly. “Whether it’s some form of therapy, meditation, or mindfulness, you need something that helps you consistently cultivate skills and habits that bring you into the present moment and raise your awareness of your conditioned patterns.” He says that the mind is a muscle that we literally need to train. “If you want to be happy, you’re going to have to develop the skills to be happy. Learning to embrace impermanence will help set you free.”
Diego Perez is the writer behind the pen name Yung Pueblo, which means “young people”—an homage to Perez’s Ecuadorian roots, his experiences in activism, and his belief that humanity is in the midst of important growth. He is the author of three bestselling books and shares his wisdom with millions of followers on Instagram @yung_pueblo.
Read more about Diego's journey to healing here.