The only thing constant in this word is change. That’s the best way to define impermanence. To some, this statement may sound rhetorical, to others it may sound self-contradictory. But when I first came across it, I was left amazed by its veracity. I realised how often we forget this idea while going about doing things in our daily lives.
In recognising the fleeting nature of all things, the idea of ‘position’ starts to become less interesting. We are less attached to things like status and objects, slowly drifting away from the distractions. Instead, the idea is replaced by deep appreciation of things we have in our lives. We become less interested in ‘chasing’ thoughts and things outside. Our focus turns inwards, asking important questions around our identity and purpose in life. So as we sit and watch the mind unfold, we see thoughts coming and going. That includes both good as well as bad thoughts. If you have read my previous blogs, you will able to appreciate how futile thoughts can be and how irrelevant our corresponding attachment to those thoughts are.
However, as we practise mediation in its true essence, we start to observe impermanence and transience around us. Just like waves in an ocean arise within the ocean, flourishes inside and eventually subdues within it. We begin to realise that thoughts are like these waves only, transient and impermanent. Our mind is like that ocean where numerous thoughts arise in the form of waves. If we will try to navigate our way through, we will eventually fall/suffer as they can be overwhelming. Wisdom lies in observing their beauty from the outside just like sitting near the beach, watching the ocean unfold and let waves do their dance within the sea.
Fleeting Nature of Emotions
As we imbibe this wisdom, we start to see how things come and go without getting affected by them. We as humans also come and go. As human beings, there is a deep appreciation for our lives and for things that we have in our lives. By acknowledging the impermanence and fleeting nature of things, we realise that there is also a change in the way we relate to our positions. There is no longer an idea of chasing the positions or holding on to them. We know that every thing is impermanent and with that, things start to lighten up a bit. We start letting go of emotions and feelings of desire, fear, anxiety, worry and find a place where we are more comfortable with insecure nature of our lives. Resting the mind in awareness provides us a way to really appreciate the preciousness of life.
One may then argue that it’s easier to stay present under normal circumstances and difficult when things go wayward. This is absolutely true. But it’s not the situation when things go wayward but our mind’s perception about “wayward” circumstances which is responsible for deviant behaviour. The truth is that we are all scared of change. That element of uncertainty which paves way for multiple storylines eventually manifests into emotions like anxiety and fear which are often considered normal. I have known people in my own family which have lived their lives through these emotions for a majority of their lives and they continue to do so. Impermanence, on an abstract level is a direct panacea. We make change our friend by acknowledging the fleeting nature of things. But it requires us to let go of our hold on certainty and control, two major things in our lives that we all are obsessed with. But as we go deep into our practise, we become more comfortable with change by starting to embrace it.
A Shared Human Condition
Impermanence, however is not a state of mind. It’s a realisation that also is subject to change. Our interpretation of the term might be something on a very abstract level, but once we imbibe it, we realise that it’s much more than that. There are layers to it. My subjective understanding of impermanence was initially confined to my own thoughts and situations in life. However, over a period of time, I have realised that it’s true with others as well. If I am on the receiving end of snowball of emotions from a loved one, I may try to resist it by reacting to the situation. But instead of reacting, if we just try to observe the other person’s thoughts and underlying feelings, we tend to be less disturbed by it. More often than not, there is a good chance that the same person might realise his or her mistake next day, or was only looking to vent emotions without actually expecting for a solution. I know that it’s easier said than done but we tend to realise that impermanence is a shared human condition. And it’s all right if others don’t realise it. Your appreciation of someone else’s transient state is also sometimes sufficient.
With this wisdom in the hindsight, we tend to be more submissive to not only our thoughts, but also to the thoughts and feelings of others around us. We not only start to realise the fleeting nature of our own experiences, but also of others. This particularly makes things complex sometimes, especially when the other person is not appreciative of your views and practise. But over the period of time, you will realise a gradual change in behaviour of people around you. This is especially helpful when you are trying to set boundaries with people who are indispensable in your life like your parents or siblings. Of course there is no guarantee that you will be successful, but it will certainly help you to pull things though.
The idea of impermanence that I mentioned in the first statement of this blog came to me while I was practising meditation through headspace. Not to mention, I might have come across it before, but it got stuck to me this time because I was in a state of being, connected with my inner self, bringing my attention back to the moment every time I was getting distracted. The best part is that the experience varies for each individual, even though the process is the same. I firmly believe that this inner state of connectedness with the ‘being’ is the underlying idea behind “enlightenment” as defined in Buddhist scriptures. As per Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddha defined “enlightenment” as the end of suffering. What happens when there is no suffering is for each individual to find out though his/her own practise.
I leave you with a video of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk who has authored some very interesting books about Buddhism. In this video, he talks about impermanence and explains it from a Buddhist perspective.
About The Author
Siddharth is an avid writer who loves to explore his various interests. He is a regular contributor to the Dialogue Box Blogpage and writes on topics related to arts and metal well being. He is lawyer by profession and works as a Designated Parter in an International Law Firm. He is also a core member of The Dialogue Box Team.