Lessons in Impermanence

by Simon Goland, May 25, 2009

Today’s Reflection is about the impermanence of our lives.

“As the morning tide recedes at a beach near Christchurch, New Zealand, Peter Donnelly arrives to go to work. Peter the Sand Dancer, with a simple stick and a rake (and a not-so-simple gift of vision), paints elaborate works of art in the sand while hundreds watch in awe and appreciation.”

I remember going to do a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat, quite a few years ago. 10 days of what felt like endless sitting, and most of it in silence. This is where I encountered the concept of “anicca,” which expresses the Buddhist notion that every conditioned existence, without exception, is inconstant and in flux, and because everything is impermanent, attachment to them is futile and leads to one thing only. Suffering. At the time, while it felt kinda true, it was still a nice theory from a faraway land. I’d like to think that I wizened since, a little, and can understand it a bit better now. Experiences are a wonderful teacher.

“In the depth of Winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible Summer.” – Albert Camus

The circle of life
An endless flow of impermanence.
Anicca in action.

Beginning follows ending
Which leads to another beginning.
Which is which?

Drawing in the sand
A masterpiece of effort and beauty.
Here comes a wave.

A new thing
Becomes familiar with time.
Can it be new again?

Apparently, you cannot
Put the same hand in the same river.
Not twice. Not even once.

The I Ching has a hexagram that talks about the “difficulty in the beginning.” It is when the chaos and confusion around, or within, is actually a much needed jolt. Some aspects of one’s life are being shaken up, and the outgrown is falling away. A new birth emerges and increases one’s capacity to endure difficult transitions. The I Ching is also being gracious enough to mention the fact that, in the interim, one has the right to feel vulnerable and shaky. Much of what was once a source of security and protection is being buffered to the point where it is difficult to know what you want, which way to move, or what to expect; doubts and questions are present in many areas of life where once there was solid and unshakable certainty. Great! Luckily, it is a part of the process, of dismantling the old to clear way for the new. Onward, gently, slowly, with no rush. A new birth is emerging…

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.