The Permanence of Impermanence
Impermanence is something we usually prefer to avoid facing. We like it when things are settled and dependable. We like to know that when we turn the key in our ignition the car starts, that when we fall in love, we will stay in love; we like the security of knowing who we are and what's next.
First, let's define what it means. Impermanence means not permanent. It means everything will continually change. There is not one thing that will come into your life and stay exactly as-is throughout your entire life. Not understanding this with our entire being is what causes the suffering we feel. Without awareness of impermanence, we typically fall into two patterns: depression or denial.
Life is like shifting sand. In Buddhism, impermanence is a central theme. In Tibet, Buddhist Monks spend months creating intricately designed sand mandalas. They bend over the ground for many hours a day, lovingly arranging the sand grain by grain, and once their beautiful creation is complete, they cheerfully destroy it in the ultimate celebration of impermanence.
In my life I easily get attached to predictable order. The older I get, the harder it is for me to accept change; impermanence. Many times I feel like I am building my own version of a mandala, a sandcastle on the beach. As soon as I get done completing my work of art, the waters rise and my sand castle quickly disappears.
I was reminded of this just yesterday, as I had to once again clean up my garage. It seemed like only a few weeks ago that I carefully went through the garage and organized everything neatly. As soon as it was nice and tidy, invariably I get into a rush and leave one thing out of place and in no time more, soon it looks like a total disaster again. It is ok I must remind myself, it is just called impermanence.
As the Buddha said, impermanence is the nature of the human condition. This is a truth we know in our minds but tend to resist in our hearts. Change happens all around us, all the time, yet we long for the predictable, the consistent. We want the reassurance that comes from things remaining the same. We find ourselves shocked when people die, even though death is the most predictable part of life.
Of course there comes a time when we outgrow something, it outgrows us, or things simply change. We are asked to look at our attachments and illusions about something fundamentally groundless. The great Yogi, Sri Patanjali reminds us in the Yoga Sutras (II.15) that it is the most pleasurable things in our lives that are actually the most painful, because eventually we will have to let them go.
A symbol of impermanence in yoga is the Om sound. In Sanskrit it is spelled "AUM" and represents the cycle of life. The "A" sounds represent creation, the "U" sound represents preservation and the "M" sound represents destruction.
As I face change in my life, I try to remember that nothing is permanent. Instead of getting disappointed or frustrated, I must remember to ask myself, was I truly present during the experience? Did I learn a valuable life lesson thru the process? As we know, life is a process of self discovery. Our spirit continues to evolve and grow; it is enriched by the people and events we encounter along the journey. It is ok to let go of them.
When you build your next sandcastle, enjoy every second of its creation. Soak in the warmth of the sand, the sunlight and the breeze across your face. Enjoy each and every breath of the delightful salt air. When it is complete, stand back and marvel at your accomplishment. Think about what you learned during construction.
When the times come for the tide to rise and wash it back into the sea, say goodbye with happiness, knowing that you were present during the entire process. When you are ready, you will begin working with renewed energy and more knowledge on your next sandcastle; it will be even more magnificent than the last.
See you on the mat.....
David Yglesias , RYT
PS: At Energy Yoga we practice Karma Yoga and no one is ever turned away because of the inability to pay for a class.