ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 10/2/15 ON SONIMA.COM
In this moment, it’s early autumn in New York and the weather presents itself as an invitation to be easy. The sensation of moving freely, without layers, makes me feel intrinsically more connected; there’s no barrier between my environment and my skin. This is a sweet time of year, an easy season to inhabit, with Indian Summer days that seemingly stretch through forever.
Of course the calendar reminds me otherwise. The sun is setting much earlier now, and the warmest days of the year have passed.
One of the hardest natural laws to reconcile is that everything is subject to change whether we want it to or not. Autumn turns to winter and winter turns to spring. The Law of Impermanence is everywhere and the seasons just stand up to testify.
I would guess that by the time we’ve hit adulthood, we’ve all felt the truth of impermanence in a million mundane ways. Job situations break down. Love affairs ignite and fizzle. Even our own bodies change, eventually becoming weathered and time-worn. I have bottles of eye serums and face creams that promise to exonerate me from this rule, but at 33, those first few unruly grey hairs tell it to me straight. I can prolong, postpone and deny the inevitable, but what comes to pass does not stay.
This is often presented as the “bad news,” or fodder for an existential crisis. I’m reminded of a video that was circulated recently of a young girl who realizes her infant brother will grow up, and quickly begins to connect the dots to her own mortality. Her breakdown at the realization is touching because we’ve all been there. The tenuous nature of things can be a difficult pill to swallow.
When impermanence is served as the “good news,” it’s often as a salve in difficult times. This too shall pass. Time heals all things. When one door closes, a new window opens. Even heartbreak changes.
However, I can’t help but wonder if rather than “good news” or “bad news,” impermanence is simply “the news”—the way that we generally accept that organic matter breaks down, without artificial preservatives. As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron reminds us, “That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs.”