Sometimes I forget about impermanence. I think that if I work hard enough, if I eat just right, if I say the right things, and if I could just get the right routine down I could stop the slow and inevitable decay that seeps into every aspect of my life.
But whenever I do this, I get caught. I’ll be going along feeling good and then a little fragment of my life will be stuck on some tiny little hangnail and I’ll find myself face to face with impermanence.
Sometimes I get hurt while working out, or my dad will have a health setback, or my partner will get sick, or my bike tire will go flat. It doesn’t matter what it is really, because any one of these reminds me that this precious life is a very limited resource.
They remind me that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, and no matter how perfect a diet I maintain, that it’s all going to end someday.
If I’m lucky, I’ll live long enough to see my body decay, my mind dull, and my life fade from the vibrancy of youth to the calm and inevitability of death.
As you read this, you may think this all sounds very depressing. And from a certain perspective, it can be. But every time I come to this realization, I feel two sets of emotions in close proximity.
The first set of emotions contains sadness, frustration, and confusion. They hold my deep sense that it’s so unfair and unreal that this magical life can just go away. They hold the audacity that all the things I put my energy into may just end with my last breath. They hold the disbelief that everyone I love is made of the same ephemeral substance as everything else.
When I feel these feelings, I do by best to accept them and acknowledge how much impermanence can totally suck.
Then sooner or later the other set of emotions arise carrying gratitude, determination, and acceptance.
These soothing emotions hold they realization that impermanence is a vital part of my life. They hold the realization that it’s because everything fades that life has any juice at all. They hold the truth that impermanence creates urgency, because it demands that you seize today and not wait for some future to follow you heart. They hold the truth that impermanence creates the field in which each of us has the chance to become something much greater than the sum of our years. Because it asks you to wake up, be kind, and to help others with each precious breath.
If your clock wasn’t counting down, you’d have no reason to let go of the ego, to open your eyes, and to walk a path that leads far beyond your years. Without impermanence, there would be no meaning to life at all. Because you could always put off what matters most.
Impermanence is the price we pay for a life of meaning and it’s totally worth it.
So as you watch this year end like so many others and begin to think about the time you have on these tender feet, ask yourself: What matters to me? What does my heart call me to do? What do I long for through fear, through ego, and through my own resistance? And instead of making a vow to lose weight or spend more time with your kids. Make this year the year to start putting what matters most to you at the center of your life.