IMPERMANENCE

Be Well Be Happy
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One of our yoga teachers settled us in on our mats with a reading about impermanence from a pocket book by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and peace activist.  The concept of impermanence is one of the most difficult to live by.  We spend our lives making connections with people on different levels—getting close, sharing experiences, being attached, reliant, familiar—and then one day a huge change: separation, change of heart, or death.  It floors us. 

When I was doing my yoga teacher training immersed in the full yoga traditional teachings, we were invited on Sunday mornings to a dharma talk in the nearby town.  An elderly enlightened being guided the talks and meditations sitting atop a mountain of blankets joking that with each year another blanket added!  He talked about losing a dear friend in the community and although he has led talks many times on the precept of impermanence as propagated in the Buddhist teachings, he was absolutely “human” in his reaction to this loss.  And he shared his feelings of sadness and grief and of those of his friend’s immediate family.  What this told me is: while we read the teachings and say we have to get to that place of acceptance of life and what happens, it doesn’t mean that we do not feel and go through the process of feeling the suffering of loss.  Being sentient beings, we are constantly thinking and feeling, reacting to people and to our environment.  So I take the precept of impermanence to be a comfort in that—ok, this very sad thing happened which caused me suffering, but knowing that life is constant change, we may be able to at some point come to some peace with that.  More at ease, not closing off the heart because of the pain.

When something happens:  “what am I going to do?” Realizing that this is life—a hard one to swallow—and everything changes or will change, opens the path to ease some of the pain resulting from a life occurrence.  For me this goes in line with practicing “santosha”—contentment—in the yogic tradition.  Being content with where we are at this moment in time, in health, mental and emotional states of being creates space to let it just be, rather than “why is this so” and “if only” and, and, and...  We are in this space at this moment in time because of where we were, did, whatever, and accepting that place can bring some peace and open the way for feeling better and healing. 

“Understanding impermanence can give us confidence, peace, and joy.  Impermanence does not necessarily lead to suffering... Impermanence tea­ches us to respect and value every moment and all of the precious things around us and inside of us.  When we practice mindfulness of impermanence, we become fresher and more loving.”—“The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh”

May you be happy.  May you be free.  May you be grateful.  May you let go of things that do not serve you.  May you have inner peace. 

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