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The Law of Impermanence

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

About two years ago, I attended a Vipassana Meditation course up in Massachusetts. This was a 10-day, silent meditation course, which meant there was no talking, no eye contact, and no hand gestures whatsoever. That sounds intense, right? Well, that’s because it was. But, there was a reason for this, a reason for the restriction of any talking, eye contact or hand gesturing. They wanted you to take the focus and all of this attention that we dedicate to the outside world, the external world, and turn it inward. Turn that focus and energy to our internal world in order to do self-reflection and see what’s really going on, regardless if its good, bad, positive, or negative.

When I told people I did this course, their next response is always a question asking me about my experience. Mainly, “how was it?” or “What was it like to not talk for 10 days?”. Unless you actually go through it, it’s really hard to describe or to put into words how I felt about the whole experience. So, the best way I can describe my time there is with these two words: Beautiful struggle. Because that’s what it was. It wasn’t so easy for me to make it through the ten days; it was a struggle. On day 4 or 5, I wanted to leave, but I made it through. With each subsequent day, I got better, I felt better, and before I knew it, it was day 10 and I made it. And to me, that’s beautiful. I learned so much, not just about how to handle the outside world, but how to handle me and my inside world, my internal body.

The external, as well as the internal are forever changing, no matter what we do, say, or try to actively control on a daily basis. Nothing is static, everything is in constant motion, fluctuating, growing, evolving, dying; turning into something that it was not just months, weeks, days, seconds, or even moments before. This constant change, that nothing lasts forever, is the law of impermanence, which is defined as the state or fact of lasting for only a limited period of time.

Even if you’ve never heard of this concept, I’m sure the word “impermanence” seems somewhat familiar. If you take a closer look at it, you should see the root word permanent, which comes from the Latin permanere, "endure, continue, or stay to the end." This means that nothing every changes, it always stays the same, no matter what. Think of a permanent marker. If you write on a wall or someone’s clothing, there’s no way of washing it off; it’s there forever, you can’t change it or erase it. On the other hand, you have impermanence, which is the exact opposite of permanent. It means nothing lasts forever, nothing stays exactly the same, and to understand the impermanent nature of everything in life is to understand the inevitability of change.

But, understanding the law of impermanence and actually living what it represents are two separate entities. The former is the ability for someone to mentally grasp the concept and accept it, but the latter is the action and implementation of it within your daily life. Going from the acceptance phase to the application phase can be met with a lot of resistance, because as human beings, we want to completely control ourselves and everything around us, including people, situations, feelings, and reactions.

Therefore, in order to transform and evolve, we have to truly let go. We have to let go of this notion that we have the power to control everything. This is a false sense of control that we trick ourselves into thinking we have in order to feel safe, to feel secure. That mentality needs to end. It’s extremely important that we come to terms with the fact that everything changes, feelings drift away, moments fade, sunsets end, and unfortunately, people pass away. We all want to hold on to these things, literally and figuratively, but at the end of the day that will only do us more harm than good. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we will free ourselves from the bondage's we allow ourselves to be locked into.

And that unconditional freedom is all we should really want for ourselves. No longer being confined and attached to this idea that if we try to hold on to something with all of our might that it will never change. No matter how hard any of us clutch to these mindsets, things will change, things will always change and there is nothing we can do about it. So, instead of resisting, starting embracing. Start embracing the fact that nothing is the same from one moment to the next. No two sunsets are ever the same. No two days are ever the same. Yes, certain moments, certain sunsets, and certain days can conjure up similar feelings to a past moment, sunset, or day, but they are not the same. Treat each one as a new experience with no positive or negative connotations, just as something you can treasure in that very moment. And then, you move on, not holding on to it. Learn to let it all go and allow yourself the ability to experience a new moment, a new day, a new interaction as if it was something you never felt before.

This concept is not easy, by any means. But, if you are aware and mindful of its potential impact on your life, you will understand how important it is to integrate it into your conscious mind. You can really soak in all of life and what it has to offer without trying to label it positive or negative. Because, to be completely honest, both good and bad things are going to happen. So, instead of trying to mark them accordingly, we have to just see it for what it is, an experience. Life is full of these experiences on a moment to moment basis, so it’s imperative we learn to accept this. It’s essential that we have the ability to allow these experiences to bring us to certain feelings or emotions. At the same time, it’s just as essential to release those feelings, release that experience from our conscious minds and from entering our thoughts and actions moving forward.

If you seem to get lost or caught up in a moment, always remember the impermanent nature of everything in life, and the inevitability of change. It will free you. And that’s all any of us should really desire; to be happy, to be joyous, and to be free.

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