How Yoga Teaches Us The Joy of Impermanence

01/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Yoga is not just about standing on your head, it is also a way of life, which includes the mythology of a trilogy of Gods: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. They represent the existence and passage of all life: that all thoughts, images, feelings, senses, physical objects, your body, your lover, the trees in neighborhood park, in fact anything and everything you can think of, is born, lives and dies. As Yoga master Swami Satchidananda taught, It's all about coming and going!

Recently we were at a memorial service for our dear friend Susan, who had unexpectedly died. It was a celebration of her life and reminded us, yet again, of how precious and quick life is, here one minute, gone the next. At the same time, Mumbai was assaulted and nearly 200 people killed for no apparent reason, people who were perhaps on holiday or a spiritual journey, or just eating lunch. Here and then gone. There are no guarantees. The only real security is there is none.

The world around us is not the same as it was just a moment ago. Right now leaves have fallen and winter is coming. Babies have been born, people have died, clouds have passed overhead, waves have risen and fallen. Always there is constant change. Who we are now is not who we were last year, last week, yesterday, even a few minutes ago. Already we have changed, our thoughts are different, some of our cells have died while others have been created.

Yet it is not always easy to accept this reality! There is a well-known story of a woman who comes to the Buddha in tears as her only son has died. She begs him to bring her son back to life; the pain of his death is too much for her to bear. Finally, the Buddha agrees. He says he will bring the boy back to life, but only if the woman can get him a single mustard seed from a house where no one has ever died. The distraught woman rushes off and proceeds to go from door to door trying to find a home that has never experienced a death. Of course, she cannot find a single place.

Although there can be sadness with impermanence, there can also be great joy, such as the passing of our friend who is now out of pain. Surprising as it may seem, impermanence can really be a great blessing, we can find a tremendous freedom in the knowing that this is the way it is, this is the flow, the rhythm, that all things are coming and going. Impermanence is a characteristic of every situation, every encounter, mood or idea, there is constant change, disappointment and elation, nothing stays the same, not even for a second. Change is the only thing we can be sure of!

What a relief! Just imagine if everything was permanent! Imagine how boring it would be if we were always the same: there would be no butterflies, no full moon, no cherry blossoms and no cherries. Impermanence is the reality of life, so if we resist it then we are resisting the meaning of being here, which is to be always becoming something different, other than what we were before.

Yoga teaches us to be aware of how we resist change and how we can let go. Look at your life and see how many things you thought would be there that are no longer, and how many new things have come into being. Consider how your life would be if nothing ever changed. And then count the great blessings that come with change and with impermanence.

Let us know: make a comment on our blog and voice the joy of impermanence!


Ed and Deb Shapiro are authors of over 15 books and lead meditation retreats and workshops. Deb is the author of the award-winning book Your Body Speaks Your Mind. They are corporate coaches and consultants, and they are the creators of Chillout daily inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. See their website: