A major component of our yoga practice is to realise that all moments are fleeting.
Nothing stays the same forever.
As the Buddha said, impermanence is the nature of the human condition. But even though we know this truth in our minds, we tend to resist it in our hearts. Although change happens all around us, all the time, we long for the constant, predictable and consistent, because we like the reassurance that comes from things remaining the same.
But as we know, there are no guarantees in life, and the only real security is that there is none!
As always, what we do on our yoga mats teaches us to understand this concept of impermanence, and equips us to better cope with it in everyday life. When we practice our asanas, we often find ourselves attached to a never-ending process of "improvement". And whilst our physical practice and understanding does inevitably improve quickly at first, after some time our poses change much less, we experience smaller breakthroughs, and the “improvement” becomes subtler. Oftentimes, we can no longer practice certain poses because of age or injury, yet we feel agitated because we assume that the poses should forever be accessible to us. We are surprised when familiar asanas become difficult, and formerly difficult ones become impossible!
The lesson here is that experiencing remarkable improvement on a continual basis, it turns out, is a temporary stage. Realizing this puts us in touch with the truth of impermanence, and how remaining attached to the practice of our past creates suffering within us.
This is what Yoga philosophy as a whole is predicated on - the notion that identification with the temporary, changing aspect of reality leads to suffering, while recognition of the eternal, changeless Self leads to peace. Our yoga practice provides us with the realisation that we can live to the fullest when we recognize that our suffering is based not on the fact of impermanence itself, but rather on our reaction/attachment to that which is impermanent.
I have to remind myself of this a lot at the moment, as I find myself in what feels like “the calm before the storm”. I am currently in a grounded and centred stage of peace and calm – which is very nice indeed!
I have noticed that this tends to happen around this time of year. Once the bouncing energy of spring, with all of its freshness, renewal and vitality, has given way to the lazy, hazy days of summer (which we now seem to be in the full throes of), I feel that life calms down a little bit.
For me, this time of year is about whittling down the “to-do” list, and enjoying more time outside; forgetting about the chores for a few hours and reading a book in the sunshine; going to the beach, getting in the sea; and scaling down my workload – taking a little bit of “time out” and “time off”.
Maybe this sense of calm has not quite entered your life just yet, as we have not yet reached the academic “summer holidays” - but those who live by this calendar, hang in there, only one more week to go! (And for the parents/grandparents out there, maybe this is your calm before the storm – before you have to try and entertain children for a whole 6 weeks?! Brace yourselves I guess?!)
However, as most of you know, I will be moving house at the end of August. Along with this, I start my pregnancy and mummy and baby Yoga teacher training in September, which runs through until December! Amidst this, I have my Sister’s 40th and Mum’s 60th Birthdays to organise and celebrate, which includes 3 parties, and a trip to Germany!! Although these are all extremely exciting things, I am very aware that the last three months of this year are going to be an absolute whirl wind of business and chaos!
Thus I must not attach myself to this current state of peace –as the great Yogi, Master Patanjali reminds us in the Yoga Sutras (II.15), it is the most pleasurable things in our lives that are actually the most painful, because eventually we will have to let them go!!