All we are and all we experience is governed by the laws of impermanence. Impermanence is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is in a constant state of flux. In impermanence you can find your own liberation. The campfires of a recent sitting meditation illustrated and grounded this teaching for me and a group of dear friends.
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This past Saturday was a full moon, not just any full moon but a super full moon which was extra special because of how large and bright it appeared in the sky. I am blessed to have a regular community of women with whom we mark nature’s cycles in and around the full moon each month. We sit in meditation, sometimes a purely silent meditation, sometimes with movement, sound, or whatever moves us based on the energy of the group. It is a most sacred and special space we create that can hold each person’s greatest joys, challenges, and sorrows both individually, for the group, and the world at large. With it being the first weekend of spring (albeit a windy and brisk one!) we chose to honor the space by sitting outside with a huge campfire. The fire and wind became our meditation. Our senses grounded us in the present and transcended the moment. It was a truly magical gathering.
In the fire we literally witnessed our own impermanence and that of everything and everyone around us. With a soft gaze you could literally watch transformation in action. Have you ever really watched a fire? I mean watched with every ounce of your being, fully present, and mindful? The wood transforms, the wind kicks up and like a bellows amplifies the fire. The cold wind on your skin followed by the heat of the fire transfixes you. What you see is literally an illusion. There one minute and different the next. what started as wood becomes ash. What appeared to be one thing is no longer. All while you bear witness grounded in your very being. And as you bear witness inside of you changes are happening at a rapid rate. Changes in your vital signs, your very cells.
If this is so for something as simple as a campfire, so it is with all things. You can’t stop the campfire from burning and changing (sure you can throw a bucket of water on it, but that itself will create yet another transformation) any more than you can stop the dynamic nature of life and the very energies of your experience. Universal law is always at work on a macro and a micro level. In vague, intangible ways and in our very tangible day to day experiences.
Can you feel the magnitude of this?
So why then do we so often retreat into our heads, engaging in mental gymnastics trying to “figure it all our” or mastermind the “right” and “safe” decisions? Because it perpetuates the illusion that you have control and that somehow if you just do it “right” everything will turn out perfectly and you’ll be spared the discomfort that comes along with trusting life. Paradoxically you also will be spared the greatest joys and successes. So much for the “safe” decision!
Impermanence is liberating. It is meant to be because it is the natural order of life. Unfortunately the nature of the human experience is that we want the not-so-happy or pleasing things to be impermanent but the stuff we really love to somehow be permanent. The beauty (and sometimes the bummer from our human viewpoint) of universal truths is that they are always at work. Not selectively, only when we want them to be.
I love this writing from Thich Nhat Hanh as it beautifully captures this conflict we feel:
Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclitus said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, “It is always flowing, day and night.” The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight. We may be tempted to say that because things are impermanent, there is suffering. But the Buddha encouraged us to look again. Without impermanence, life is not possible. How can we transform our suffering if things are not impermanent? How can our daughter grow up into a beautiful young lady? How can the situation in the world improve? We need impermanence for social justice and for hope.
If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don’t suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away. If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving and wise. Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation.
This is why to ride the wave of life we are called to do more than just be in our heads. We are meant to bridge the gap between our heads and our hearts. We are meant to combine the wisdom of our natural intuition with the powers of our mind. It is from this philosophy that I created Intuitive Intelligence™ because I frankly learned, often through pain, that I’m meant to live more fully, more alive, and more successfully and to do that it can only happen by stepping out of a limited mind. Yes our minds our powerful. Knowledge is good. Intelligence is fabulous. AND… it is not the whole story. Seriously, try wrapping only your head around this concept of impermanence. Then… try experiencing it in some way – mindful observation of a beautiful campfire, a flowing body of water, your vegetable garden. Do you notice a difference? Feel a difference? I guarantee you will. It is from this space that you are called to make your wise decisions about everything from what you want to do this evening to your professional path. It is a radical new way …
If you need help making this transformation for yourself in your business… contact me for a complimentary discovery session and see how support can help set you free.