Like waves in the ocean, all things are impermanent.
I will accept whatever happens and make it my friend. ¹
Yesterday was a very strange weather day, even for spring here in northern Wisconsin. Last spring, I began taking almost daily walks in the woods on our rural property to get some exercise and to enjoy meditatively walking through nature. This spring, being stuck in our home due to COVID-19 restrictions and unable to go anywhere except for a weekly quick foray to the grocery store to grab milk and several other perishable items, I have been going into the woods daily just to GET OUT! I feel so grateful to live where I can head to the woods all by myself, or with my spouse, and walk without having to worry about encountering and possibly endangering other people.
Yesterday morning I took off by myself. When I got up the sun was brightly shining, and I was excited to get outside. But by the time I went out, clouds had rolled in. Stepping outside I realized it was colder than it looked, and a strong wind was blowing straight from the north. I went back in to get a warmer jacket and a hat before setting out. I decided to stick to the woods trails so I would be more sheltered from the wind.
It was a very beautiful, enjoyable walk, but the weather changed about 10 times in the short span of about 40 minutes! As I began paying more attention to the quick change-ups, I became fascinated. The sun would shine brightly and warmly opening up blue spans of sky surrounded by white fluffy clouds, then dark clouds on the outskirts would move in covering the sun, and my surroundings would dim and darken. The wind would rise, and several times a few flutters of snowflakes would slowly sift down: then the sun, then the clouds and wind, then mini-Styrofoam balls of snow pelting madly down, then the sun. It was crazy!
After I returned to the house, I watched from the windows to see this kaleidoscope of weather and sky change occur throughout the day. At one point, there were blizzard conditions, fast and furious snow falling, pushed almost horizontal by the north wind in the open areas…then the SUN! It was fantastic!
All of this brought to mind the truth of impermanence. All day I saw impermanence in the constantly changing weather. I saw impermanence in the forest plants, trees, and animals, each in flux, changing from their winter dormancy to spring fecundity.
We humans seem to have a great problem with impermanence and prefer to be in denial of its reality. We desire to keep things just as they are if we are feeling comfortable, happy, and that life is good. We grasp onto things, people, and situations at these times hoping to hold them fast and keep them forever unchanging. Deep inside we know that this is folly, and when things do change, as they always will, we may become angry, resentful, depressed, hopeless or despairing. We often feel a sense of “it’s not fairness.” Why me? Why now?
At the same time, we tend to forget that impermanence is also the reality when we are in the midst of personal trials. None of us has gotten to any one point in our lives where we haven’t experienced changes that have thrown us for a loop. We’ve all experienced things like the deaths of people we love, loss or change of jobs or relationships, challenges raising children or grandchildren, physical illness or suffering, and so many other difficult things that we humans experience throughout life. And we all know deep inside that, whatever struggles come to us, those difficult times are not permanent. Thank GOD for that!
Impermanence is an integral reality of all things. We are not, at this very second, what we were a second ago nor what we will be in the next second. The universe is not, at this very second, what it was a second ago nor what it will be in the next second. Everything is in constant motion, as God intended it to be, constantly changing, constantly dying and rising, constantly spiraling forward.
Impermanence is what we have all celebrated as we have traveled through Holy Week and Easter. We heard the story of transformation from death to resurrection, from darkness to light, from constriction to freedom. This is the crux of our Christian faith, that the possibility and probability for transformation and resurrection for each of us is real. Death is not permanent. New life springs from death and death springs from new life. We can see this everywhere around us if we only begin to look and see with “new eyes.”
The only thing permanent is impermanence. So, let’s all shout out this Easter, “Hurray for impermanence! Hurray for impermanence!”
– Rita Simon
¹ Nectar of the Path, by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, translated by Cortland Dahl, © 2011 Tergar International