Archive for October, 2006

The Challenge of Impermanence

“A breeze does not last the whole morning.
A shower does not go on for the whole day.
Natural occurrences do not last forever;
Nor does a man”

— Tao Te Ching

Impermanence is an overriding characteristic of life – it is a universal law. Big or small, everything in our life is constantly changing. Whether it is a sound that comes and goes, the loss of something or someone, or even our own body aging, each thing in life is fleeting.

In contradiction, as human beings, we have the tendency to seek security. We try to make things in our life stable and solid – even if this is an illusion. We find it hard to accept the actual nature of our lives, the truth of impermanence. And yet, we cannot stop things from changing.

Failure to acknowledge the truth of change is a source of suffering in our lives, a source of conflict. Essentially, when things in our life change we often want things to be different than they are, and this causes frustration, at best, even depression. Over time, physical wear and tear on our body and/or emotional breakdown may occur due to the habitual ways we react in attempt to avoid dealing with this discomfort.

If this is our tendency as human beings, what is the alternative? Instead of trying to deny change by attempting to create an unchanging world to hold on to (ultimately living in conflict), we can acknowledge the truth of each changing moment. We can live in harmony with, and try to understand more deeply, the impermanence in life. This is what Alan Watts called, “the wisdom of insecurity.” It entails a practice of letting go when we feel the need to grasp and hold on. Coming to terms with change is not an easy task but a worthwhile one, and for some, a necessity for well-being. It is an on-going process.

To reinforce the truth of impermanence, the following phrase can be a helpful tool:

“May I experience peace amid the changes in my life, and may I experience peace amid the changes in others’ lives.”

The Beginner’s Guide to Insight Meditation, Arinna Weisman and Jean Smith, Bell Tower: New York (2001)
Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, Joseph Goldstein & Jack Kornfield, Shambhala Publications: Boston (1987)


October 1, 2006 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment


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