"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river and he is not the same man" - Heraclitus.
As we experience the season of change we are reminded every year that death, change and release must happen for re-growth to occur. It is also a reminder that death and change are inevitable. In fact, the only known fact of our life is that it will end and we will die. This is not meant to point out bleakness but rather to point to our relationship to impermanence; can we accept that nothing is permanent?
In a year where I experienced my Father's passing and the immense shift of change that follows a death in the family, compounded by massive change in dynamics as my grandchild was born and in between big shifts and changes at work and in life. At a time where we all are experiencing massive changes in our social structure and natural environment, where so much is not as it was and we must adapt. Though change is constant for us all there are times when it feels massive and strikingly apparent. It is in these times that we need to cultivate detachment. "The most evolutionary choice is to consciously accept and explore the impermanent nature of our lives. In doing so we gain confidence, peace, and equanimity. Ultimately, the more we embrace impermanence now, the less we will suffer later when it is thrust upon us. When we allow ourselves to consciously recognize the impermanence of all things, we appreciate life more and we have more joy and gratitude for this precious human lifetime in which we can connect with others and expand our love and compassion." Adam Brady.
In the Yoga Sutras, the second noble truth is the origin of suffering and the direct causes of suffering are listed as: attachment, aversion and ignorance. Attachment is one of the 5 Kleshas originally known as 'Raga'. The kleshas are translated as 'That which afflicts from within'. It is not that we suffer due to impermanence itself but to the attachment to permanence and the expectation that things, people and places stay the same. Our attachment to our experiences as a form of clinging is where the suffering occurs, not to the change. This is not to say that we need to separate or keep ourselves from loving deeply or profoundly enjoying our life or moments within it. It is more about attachment and whether we understand and can accept that those we love and what we enjoy are impermanent and therefore to be treasured and held close and dear but with an open heart and open hands. This teaching is reflected in Brahmacharya, non-excess, as well: 'We are on this world , in part, to feel enjoyment and pleasure...Non excess is not about non-enjoyment. It actually is about enjoyment and pleasure in it's fullest experience...In yogic thought, there is a moment in time when we reach the perfect limit of what we are engaged in and It is this moment of 'just enough' that we need to recognize." - Deborah Adele. Though this is not entirely the same as impermanence it is similar in that we need to allow for a shift where the thing, person or place we love so much can be set free, released and given space to shift, change and end.
"When we realize the everlasting truth of “everything changes” and find our composure in it, we find ourselves in Nirvana. Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transiency, we suffer. So the cause of suffering is our nonacceptance of this truth. The teaching of the cause of suffering and the teaching that everything changes are thus two sides of one coin." - Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
Everything is impermanent; everything changes in time. If we do not accept this truth, we will suffer. "Life is about change. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes it is beautiful, but most of the time it's both." - unknown
When we realize the impermanence of everything around us we are ultimately set free, set free to enjoy and love without clinging or holding tight and instead we can give space to change. It is not the change that is so painful, it is the resistance to it that causes our suffering. This is such an important and valuable teaching for our well being and it can set us free because at the same time we are asked to accept impermanence, yoga points to our true divine self as the permanence we are seeking and that is where we find solace and peace. A teacher once told me that recognizing yoga as the practice that shows you how to see beyond and past your attachment to impermanent things and to turn inward to the unchanging true self and understanding the experience of this connection is the true experience of yoga.
"Our lives, hopes and dreams are built with the conviction that we have some influence over the forces of nature. Often those same hopes and dreams evaporate with the first change in the wind. These changes keep our minds reeling, our hearts in constant hope and dreams just our of reach...When we turn our view inward, a grand discovery awaits us. Here we find a sacred place where stillness and peace abide, encouraging our hearts to blossom." Nischala Joy Devi
While life dances around us in constant movement our true self and heart remains constant in the center as unchanging as our essential nature. Like the sun; "In our minds we all know the sun is always there, even though sometimes, it is engulfed by clouds or on the other side of the earth from us. Even when the sun is hidden, it remains the lifegiving force that sustains our physical existence. In the same way, our True Self transmits life force to the body, mind and emotions, but because we can not see the True Self or experience it as real, we doubt it's existence." But while we do not see our True Self and attach to the impermanent as what we think defines us we continue to suffer.
All the while in this rich life of experiences, love, adventure, beauty, pain and all that makes us human I believe it is a wonderful thing to live in awe and love deeply. To take in the view and fill the soul. To laugh and to cry are all part of the journey and I personally would not erase any of it. Yet all the while, deepening connection to our true unchanging self; divine, not human, is where peace lies.
Perhaps if we can see the impermanence of it all, we will not take things so seriously and maybe not cling to so much. We tend to cling to who we love and what we think we know and what we are familiar with but perhaps instead we can be present with what is in the moment. So when the wind blows unexpectedly or we turn to find someone is gone and something is entirely different than what is was before and not the same as we liked it. When the earth shifts under our feet and we feel like we're falling into the cracks or our balance feels off from what we know to be our stable ground, maybe we can recognize that it is not the ground shifting that makes us lose balance but that we have been expecting this ground to be permanently stable. It is not the ground that is permanently stable, it is our True Self. When we accept that all things change around us and in the world we live on we might free ourselves of suffering. As in the words of Mary Oliver; "How wonderful to be who I am, made of earth and water, my own thoughts, my own fingerprints - all that glorious, temporary stuff."