Getting comfortable with impermanence

What if?? What if we could do that? Just sit down and enjoy the ride, even when things are tough, even when big changes come, and even when those changes bring things that are not in line with our preferences. Rather than being disheartened, rather than being filled with sadness or anger, or feeling like our whole world has fallen apart. Because truly, this IS the way life is. This is what it means to be human (Pema Chodron is brilliant!). Right? As they say, the only constant in life is change. Things are constantly changing. Our skin wrinkles, we change jobs, friends come and go in our lives, we move to far away places, we get divorced, and the world around us changes just as much (think technology, fads, politics, everything!). Our preferences even change and something that we find really pleasing today might not be enjoyable at all 5 years from now. The way we think about things changes with ongoing experience and perspective. Our bodies change, be it through childbirth, cancer surgery, other disease, injury, or just natural aging. Sadly, we also all lose friends and family members at some point along the way, a change that can be the most devastating because of its permanence.

This brings me to the point. That truly, most things are impermanent. And it is our resistance to this idea that makes us suffer the most. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not”. Why do we think that things should stay the same forever? And why would we want that, even if we could flip some magical switch and make it so? Without change, we would never grow and learn. Sure, maybe things would be easier and more comfortable. But that just isn’t reality. Change is just the way life is. It is part of being human. So why shouldn’t we learn to just lean into that change, to let go of our reflex to resist it or strain against it, and to embrace it and all that it may bring us. Ahhhhh the freedom that comes when we release all of that tension and resistance, and just open ourselves to the natural flow of things.

Having cancer sure gives us a lesson in impermanence and change. Our bodies change, our hair changes (although some of that can be a welcome change πŸ˜‰ ), even our eyebrows change! Our priorities change, they way we value our relationships changes (some in one direction and others, another), the way we plan for our future changes, and the way we enjoy even life’s little moments changes. Some of the changes suck big time, but others are really a breath of fresh air. The good news is, even when those really sucky changes come rolling in, we can remember impermanence and know that they won’t stay forever.

Yoga practice actually provides a nice place to practice impermanence, as our practice definitely changes all the time. Some days we feel stronger, some days less so, sometimes we must adapt the practice for an injury or an illness. There may be some years when power yoga is what feels really good to us, and others where we need the slow quiet introspection of yin yoga. But this is a beautiful thing about yoga, that it can change and morph with us, supporting us in whatever phase or stage of life we are in, helping us to roll with those changes, accepting them as a part of our human experience.

At first glance, this idea of impermanence might seem depressing (what do you mean my beloved pet won’t be by my side forever?!), but with a little practice in adjusting our perspective, it can actually help us enjoy life even more, by encouraging us to really be present and appreciate the good times, rather than being distracted and taking them for granted. AND, understanding impermanence makes dealing with the trying times so much easier, by helping us remember that, no matter how hard this moment seems, it won’t be like this forever. So in truth, recognizing impermanence can be a really healthy practice and a helpful coping mechanism.

I hope that today you are finding it easy to just sit back and enjoy the ride.


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