As I took some time to connect with Gaia yesterday, I was reminded of one of her greatest lessons- the changing of the seasons. Where I live, the leaves are finally changing. The beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds of the leaves, the chill on my skin that turns my cheeks a rosy pink, and the overwhelming contentment that washes over me from a warm beverage hitting my lips. I took it all in, and was so grateful for her blessings.
For over a week now, I have been pondering the Law of Impermanence. Impermanence, or anitya (Sanskrit), is the teaching that everything lasts for only a limited amount of time. That means all life and all material things have a beginning, a middle, and ultimately- an end.
While the idea of impermanence used to spark fear and anxiety within me, it now brings me a sense of relief and allows me to fully exhale. It now teaches me to cherish the present moment, and reminds me in times of despondency that this too shall pass.
I want to share this teaching with you in the way that I interpret it and feel it in my bones. While this may not be exactly how Buddhist philosophy teaches it, this is how impermanence shows up for me and what it has taught me thus far.
The Law of Impermanence
The Law of Impermanence, the first dharma seal (principle) in Buddhist philosophy, teaches us that everything in existence is impermanent. Impermanence teaches us that all life, relationships, situations, challenges, and material things, begin and end. Ultimately, this principle teaches us about change.
So often, change is something we as humans resist. We resist the changes of the seasons, the aging of our bodies, the changes in our jobs, relationships, and so on. But what we fail to realize is that change is the one thing that is forever constant in our lives. The moment we accept change, we are free.
“Change is never painful. Only the resistance to change is painful.” -Buddha
My Journey to Accepting the Law of Impermanence
When I was first introduced to the Law of Impermanence, I was fear stricken. I was wrapped up in the idea that one day, I would lose my loved ones, potentially my job, my friends, etc. Lose, lose, lose- that is all I could see. I was so fixated on this idea that impermanence meant loss, and that was something that was really hard for me to cope with.
However, when experiencing particularly turbulent times, I would turn to the law of impermanence to free me of my worry and fear. Impermanence would remind me that these situations were just moments in time. I was reminded that it was all temporary, and whether what I was facing would be over in a day, a week, or even a year- I knew it would end. Ultimately, the Law of Impermanence brought levity to heavy feelings and situations that previously felt unbearable.
I realized though, that I couldn't have it both ways. I couldn’t resent the idea of impermanence when it pertained to the things I hold so close to my heart and that I enjoyed doing, yet turn to it for solace in challenging times. I needed to embrace the whole principle, each and every day, and live it.
With a little shift in my perspective and a whole lot of practice, I was able to see the whole beauty of this principle. Impermanence has taught me to embrace each now moment more fully, and to remember that we are gifted with life, experiences, people, and challenges temporarily. Through the Law of Impermanence, I have learned to hold gratitude in my heart for all things, to let go of fear and worry in sticky situations, and to surrender it all to the great Divine.
Practicing the Law of Impermanence
Practicing impermanence is a practice, just like everything else in this lifetime. Here are three ways to embrace impermanence in your everyday life:
Think about impermanence regularly- Write about it, think about it, talk about it with a friend. Find a way to welcome the law of impermanence into your life so that you can understand it more readily and appreciate its lessons.
Take a walk in nature- Gaia, our great Earth Mother, always shows us the great law of impermanence. May it be the change of seasons, the birth and death of plant life and animals, or the simple notion of the sun rising and setting on the horizon. Each time you take a walk in nature, see if you can learn something from Gaia about impermanence, and see if you can apply it to your daily life.
Cultivate a sense of detachment- Detachment, like impermanence, does not mean to let everything go and not find joy in the pleasures of this lifetime. Instead, it means to release your grip a bit, so you are not white-knuckling steering wheel of your life. Allowing yourself to experience carefree detachment provides us with the ability to ebb and flow with our lives more easily.
Law of Impermanence Journaling Prompts
Here are some journaling prompts to help you surface your own relationship with impermanence:
What came up for me when reading about the Law of Impermanence? How do these feelings reflect my relationship with change?
How much mental energy do I spend dwelling on the past and future?
What activities, people, situations in my life am I grateful for? How can I practice being more present with these people and experiences?
Cherish the now and release your fears. It is all temporary.
With all the love and light in my heart,