Finding Solace in Impermanence
Why is it that when the days are darkest they stretch on forever and feel like they’ll never end? Time may fly when we’re having fun but it sure seems to slow to a crawl when we’re suffering.
I’m not sure what it is about bottoming out that feels so eternal when you’re in it. There is a sense of absolute hopelessness laced with a sense of ‘foreverness’ that can bring us right to our knees. The mind claims that “I will suffer forever” and that “there is no way out.” There have been mornings of my own journey through the deep that I felt disappointed to wake up. I felt certain that I could not bear another day.
As meaningless as it may sound when you’re in hell, there can be a small sliver of reprieve in recalling the impermanent nature of things. We’re all familiar with the axiom ‘this too shall pass’. It’s an axiom, a given, because we’ve all experienced this…the passing of days, the passing of phases of life, the passing of our sorrows, and our joys.
On this human journey, we are not sure of much, but we do know that regardless of what we’re living now, whether we like it or not, it is fleeting. This too shall pass.
Sometimes ‘temporary’ is long term—I know it has been in my healing journey. ‘Temporary’ has lasted four years and counting, but within this long drawn out period of illness I have noticed that there are ebbs and flows. My symptoms shift within the illness state that in many ways seems to stay the same. A migraine is temporary—a long three days kind of temporary—but temporary nonetheless. A strong wave of ‘herxing’ or die-off from the Lyme that seems grave enough to kill me eventually passes in days or sometimes weeks. I’ve come to find comfort in the fact that whatever I’m living today will be different tomorrow or the next day.
At times I’d be so epically depressed about my situation that I’d fantasize about getting hit by a car, but then the heaviness would give way organically to days of feeling inspired in spite of my symptoms and feeling strangely content in the face of discomfort. I learned to hold my healing process more ‘lightly’ and to not invest so much in my own discomfort or misery. I’m practicing not ‘buying into the story’, as it is, so indefinitely.
Ideally, I think, we’d go through life like this—present and engaged and yet ‘holding things lightly’ like having a butterfly cupped between our palms. We must keep enough spaciousness present for life to change, move, and flow as it inevitably does. To cling too tightly is to stoke our suffering.
While we gratefully experience the darkness passing away into the dawn, it turns out that even the things we love and cherish are impermanent…the smooth skin of youth, the magnetic fire of new love that gives way to days of heartbreak, the magical holiday is always too short, and even the ways we express ourselves can become outmoded, like an old umbrella, that stops serving it’s purpose.
To resist change is to resist life. In our resistance we battle the inevitable.
Life is a dynamic movement. There is nothing truly stable to cling to. We are part of the great wheel of life and death, of seasons that come and go, of dreams that come to fruition and pass away. In this land of sun set and moon rise, we give form to the stream of life only for a time…
We are temporary expressions of an infinite source.
Instead of seeing this as a problem we can see impermanence as a prompt to open our eyes and hearts. In this realm of the temporary each moment is an ephemeral gift to show up for and drink in before it too passes back into the infinite.
I read somewhere that loving fully and without reservation is the only way to both live well and prepare to die well. We must fully take our place on the stage of life before the show ends and the curtain closes. We must do what is ours to do, say what we need to say, and as Wayne Dyer says, we mustn’t die with our music still in us. We must dare to awaken to and immerse ourselves in each ordinary increment of our transitory lives.
You’d think that we’d be schooled in the grief process considering how impermanent everything is, considering how temporary every aspect of our experience really is. Perhaps the preciousness of life lies in its impermanent nature. The preciousness of the moment lies in the very fact that it is fleeting.
Eventually we must say goodbye to everything even our own lives.
:: CREATE ::
Monks in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition create intricate sand mandalas, sacred circular shapes from colored sand, and then ritualistically destroy them. Inspired by this transitory tradition, I invite you to create your own perishable work of art. Make a random art installation with packs of sugar at a diner. Write a secret on the beach at low tide using a piece of driftwood. Scribble an impulsive poem on toilet paper. Smile at a stranger. Make a toothpick sculpture at a bus stop. Build something that you know will not last. Create beauty as an offering to the impermanence of life.
Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau