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  • Writer's pictureSusan Green

Embracing Impermanence!

Updated: Mar 7, 2020

I've been thinking a lot lately about the impermanence of life! How recognizing and accepting it can be pretty challenging at times? The truth is, we tend to live with a false sense of permanence—forgetting that most everything about life is temporary in nature. Why are we inclined to function, year after year, day after day, and from moment to moment as though the people and things in our lives are of a reliable and permanent nature? Do you do this? I know I do...I get comfy with the 'status quo' of my life and then when something shifts, I am jolted into reality—like being awakened from a dream. And sometimes, it hurts!

A few weeks ago I experienced this kind of jolt, or awakening For the past 6 years I’ve been attending a yoga class on Friday mornings. This class was a 75-minute physical/mental challenge and an anticipated antidote to the stresses of my week. More importantly, it was weekly spiritual sanctuary, and I lived for it! I also took its inherent impermanence for granted.

Nothing lasts forever, right? The day I learned that my Friday yoga teacher had decided let go of this class, I was deeply saddened and confused. I felt empty. It was like a death, and one for which I was entirely unprepared. Why was I so unprepared? Why did I assume permanence? I had missed the previous class when this was likely announced, so when I found out, the opportunity for one more Friday practice had passed. I threw my yoga mat onto my living room floor, turned on one of my favorite playlists, and broke into a tear-filled-impromptu “memorial” practice to process my loss. I had never cried through an entire practice before. I found it to be surprising cleansing, while also bringing focus to some of the lessons I’ve been working on lately as part of my life journey. Through the tears, these familiar lessons poured into my consciousness like a gift from the Universe!

Lesson 1: Be in the moment!

Acute awareness of the impermanence in our lives correlates directly to both a connection to the present moment and an intensified appreciation of our experiences! When our focus is awakened by unexpected change, we are reminded to engage with the people and experiences in our lives as though we will never experience them again. Whether it’s each breath you breathe - the quickly fleeting moments as your child journeys from infant to graduate - the diversity of a rainbow-colored salad for lunch - or a yoga class you hope will always be there, being engaged in each of life’s moments and experiences with your best acutely tuned attention, enthusiasm, and gratitude is a sure path to truly feeling alive!

Lesson 2: When we change, we grow!

I also found a lesson about change itself. I’ve been deeply contemplating the dangers of espousing the "status quo" with all of its inherent comfort and ease. Embracing too tightly can manifest in a lack of growth. In yoga, we seek challenge to find our own edges as a catalyst for growth. We avoid staying in an expression of a pose that has become easy, too comfortable. A life with static schedules, relationships, and experiences is nice to have and rely on, and at the same time, this existence might be like hanging out in a yoga pose without challenge—we aren’t discovering anything new about ourselves. So, when change comes along, I'm trying to not just accept it, but to embrace the opportunity for growth with a beginner's mind and anticipation of growth and enlightenment. I strive to graciously accept the invitation to adjust my position and learn more about myself!

Lesson 3: An inherent gift from change!

One last lesson, and this is my favorite because it was unexpected and, to me, quite precious! More and more, I am observing how we are all so incredibly connected. As we open and close our own life’s doors, in doing so we are manifesting non-negotiable change for each other. Think about that, non-negotiable change! I’ve never been great at closing doors. I’ve always been concerned about who I might affect in the process. This concern has led me to stay in places I no longer belong, and maybe that is unfair. Maybe affecting others when we change course in our personal life is more positive than negative, and same goes for when someone or something changes without our control. Consider these synonyms for the word “affect”: alter, change, influence, inspire, stir, transform. Conversely, here are some antonyms: continue, hold, keep, order, remain, stagnate. Closing doors on each other can be an opportunity for movement, transformation, and evolution, if we are willing to look for those gifts.

Food for thought:

What doors have closed in your life recently? How have you grown as a result? Are there doors you've been thinking about closing yourself? If you think about those closures as potential gifts of growth and movement, does it make the change more palatable—maybe even joyful?

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