Understanding the very law of impermanence is one of the most powerful realizations along a path of embracing all that life has to offer. And we don’t need to look further than nature to gain this understanding; the weather, the seasons, the trees, the movement of the ocean, the cycle of the moon, the Earth’s constant rotation, the death and re-birth of all matter, and more. Everything rises and passes naturally. Suffering does not exist within this rising and passing. We humans simply experience suffering when our mind mistakes what is permanent with what is impermanent. Let me explain.
Moods, emotions, relationship qualities, life’s circumstances, and sometimes, even, some of the most atrocious events, arise in our lives that are not pleasant to go through. Equally, pleasant experiences and circumstances come up in all shapes and sizes. Our mind tends to cling on to pleasant experiences, not wanting them to pass and has aversion to/ repels the experiences that are not so pleasant. This is natural, in a way, for the mind to do. However, we often don’t observe and examine what is actually happening in a given moment in order to live it simply as it is in that moment. We live the present moment through a lens of past impressions and future anticipations. A present moment that is pleasant may come with the illusion that life is “finally going well and everything is resolved”, projecting the pleasant experience onto all future experiences and feeling possibly at peace within this false projection. Similarly, an adverse circumstance that leads the mind to fear what is next may come with a thought of “my life is over”, or “it’s never going to get better”. There are exceptions to this false understanding, especially if you have a mind that is able to stay present or if your experiences have been such that you have gained the wisdom of not projecting onto the future anything that is temporarily showing up in the present. This very wisdom of understanding what is real and what is the mind’s interpretation of what is really happening is what I am referring to when I say that understanding the law of impermanence is one of the most powerful realizations along a path of embracing all that life has to offer and being free from suffering.
A tree does not suffer when it loses it’s leaves in the Fall. The Earth does not suffer when there is a hurricane. The elements are simply interacting, changing, shifting, settling, calming, getting disturbed again, and changing moment to moment to moment. Everything about our human existence is no different. Every cell in our body is changing, shifting, dying, renewing, and transforming every single moment. Our moods, our emotions, the sensations in our bodies, the circumstances we are presented with, and more, are subject to the same. There is no inherent suffering in these qualities of change. For those of you who understand the term “gunas” in yoga, these are the qualities I am referring to. The suffering in the mind occurs when there is a reaction in the mind in the form of story, narrative, interpretation, and more specifically, when there is misinterpretation in the form of mistaking something that is inherently impermanent with something that is permanent. In other words, the mind creates a story about a pleasant or unpleasant experience as though it was permanent and then, when the experience rises and passes as it naturally does, the mind re-creates story about this change, forgetting that change is simply happening, has no meaning and that each experience will again rise and pass.
If this is slightly confusing or unclear, simply look into nature for further understanding. Watch the rising and passing of all matter and begin to meditate on this impermanence in a way that allows you to simply be a witness to the process without making it mean anything. And then, apply the teachings to understanding your own being. Witness the arising and passing of everything within yourself and quiet the mind as you witness this. Freedom from suffering and pure contentment may result. And you may then begin to also contemplate who the witness is within you. This witness is permanent. It is the only thing that is. In essence, when you begin to understand this, you will feel at home in your heart.