For years I did not fully grasp or have an understanding of what impermanence was. It was not until I got sober that the concept clicked for me. Everything in life is impermanent: the good, the bad and the indifferent. We become married to our situations and become deluded that things will last forever. Forever is merely a concept. As Benjamin Franklin stated, “the only things in life that are guaranteed are death and taxes”. Why do so many people suffer around impermanence? Because we grasp at the past and towards the future. This week we will be working on accepting and embracing impermanence in our lives.
1) This is just the way things are right now: seeing the gift of impermanence.
The practice of accepting impermanence gives us the opportunity to embrace what is happening right now. Even if this moment is boring, uneventful, and unpleasant. We get to be present for our lives because this moment will never happen again. If we are stuck in anxiety, worry, or regret we miss the present moment. Each moment of our lives is precious because life is a gift. We may live 70 more years or we may live one more day.
When we are grateful for the present moment, we are able to live our lives more freely and openly because we are present in our bodies and not trapped by our minds. If you are full of sadness, anxiety, or fear try pressing CV 17 a calming, nurturing, emotional healing point known as the “Sea of Tranquility” to connect with self and repeat the following affirmation: I fully and wholly accept this present moment. May I breathe and accept how I feel right now. Notice after a few minutes how your body feels and if the feeling has passed.
2) Use impermanence to help us get through unpleasant feelings. “This too shall pass.”
Experiences are like weather in our lives. Sometimes it is sunny, or rainy, and sometimes there are hurricanes. We can use positive experiences in our lives to remind us that the challenging times are transient just as the good times are. This is why I like the sufi saying “this too shall pass.” As humans we like consistency, but we all know that life is ever changing. The more that we can accept this ,the less suffering we experience.
So when you are overwhelmed with feelings, be willing to ride the wave of emotions and know that it will pass. Much of the time when we feel overwhelmed, we have the tendency to slouch and constrict our diaphragm and collapse our chest. Try sitting up with your spine erect, your shoulder blades down on your back and both feet on the floor. Close your eyes and connect with your diaphragm. Take deep breaths and picture your diaphragm getting more loose like a rubber band when you stretch it out. Notice with each breath how your overwhelm melts away with each breath you take.
3) Spend time in nature to remind yourself of the impermanence of life.
When we observe nature, it reminds us that everything is constantly changing. The tides of the ocean changing from high tide to low tide which changes the shape of the beach. Flowers bloom and then they die. Their beauty is enjoyed for a limited time. The more that we see the cycle of change, death and birth, the more we can accept that everything is momentary. Our lives are ever-changing. To embrace impermanence is to be one with the ebbs and flows of life.
4) Use the breath as an example of beginning, middle, and end.
Take moment to observe the cycle of your breath. Notice that with each breath you take, there is a beginning: the inhale, there is a middle: the exhale, and then the pause between each breath. Our breath can be used as a wave of relaxation for our body. It can help us to feel safe in the midst of feeling threatened if we pay attention to it. Try this exercise and notice the beginning, middle and end of the breath.
Three Part Breathing
The “three parts” are the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest.
During Three-Part Breath, you first completely fill your lungs with air, as though you are breathing into your belly, ribcage, and upper chest. Then you exhale completely, reversing the flow. Follow these instructions:
- Sip two breaths into your abdomen hold your breath
- Sip another two breaths into your diaphragm
- Sip your final breath into the chest/ collarbone area
- Hold your breath for a count of 3
- Breathe out your breath for a count of 6 and make sure all of your oxygen out of your abdomen.
- Rest for a count of 3 and begin again.
5) See impermanence as the ultimate way to let go.
In the Tibetan buddhist tradition, when a ceremony occurs, the monks create a sand mandala. It takes dozens of hours to create it. At the end of the event, the intricate mandala is purposefully destroyed. The sand is collected in a jar which is then wrapped in silk and transported to a river (or any place with moving water), where it is released back into nature. This symbolizes the ephemerality of life and the world. A beautiful illustration of impermanence.
If you would like to also practice making art that is impermanent, try using a buddha board or using chalk on a side walk.
Remember everything including this moment is fleeting. Enjoy the moment and be grateful for your life.
Try this practice this week and let me know how it goes.
Have a great week.
Image: Clearing off the Hevajra mandala table of colored sand, lead by HH Dagchen Rinpoche, Tibetan Lamas clear the mandala, Tharlam Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal by Wonderlane