Mar 052011
 
Cherry Blossoms by Charley Lhasa

Impermanence is a favourite topic of Sandra’s. It is also something that is constantly at the back of my mind. Whether it is looking at cherry blossoms, reading or watching historical epics, I am always aware of the presence of impermanence. Yet it is not something that is necessarily bad. It is merely a part of this life. When there is a heavy storm, getting upset serves little purpose. All we can do is to adjust our actions to manage the situation. It is the same with impermanence. When we appreciate its value and place in this world, we can learn to manage it more effectively.

Cherry Blossoms: The Beauty of Impermanence

The Japanese are keen observers of nature. In the process, they have learned many important secrets of life. Take the cherry blossom for example. Given its nature, it has come to symbolize many things. By blooming en masse, it reminds us of clouds. But because of its extreme beauty and quick death, it is also an enduring metaphor for impermanence.

The Importance of Impermanence

What is impermanent in this world? Quite simply, the answer is everything. Our life, health, family, friends, status, career, possessions, successes, failures; these are all impermanent. Whether we are ready or not, one day, we will have to part from what we have in one way or another. Even so, impermanence has its value and place in this world.

1. Valuing Each Moment

Cherry blossoms bloom for only a very short period. It usually reaches its peak within a week after the opening of the first blossoms. After another week, the blooming peak is over and the blossoms fall from the trees. Due to its short lifespan, each moment is precious.

Human beings are odd creatures. When we believe we have eternity we tend to take things for granted. Take our loved ones for example. If we perceive that we have all the time in the world with them, we hardly notice their presence. This is something that advertisements conveniently leave out. Our perception of endless time dulls our senses and awareness. We assume we can tell our loved ones that we love them tomorrow. Time will wait for us. But the moment separation looms on the horizon each second becomes valuable. Impermanence helps us to realize the value of each moment.

2. Living Each Moment Fully

The Japanese have a lovely custom called hamani. Hanami is an old practice of having a picnic under a blooming cherry blossom tree. Every year, those with a keen interest in this custom will watch the blossom forecast with care. Once they know the dates of the bloom, they will organize an outdoor party under the cherry blossom trees. On the one hand, they can admire the beauty of the flowers and the moment while they are blooming. On the other hand, they can enjoy good company. In this manner, they live each moment of the cherry blossom bloom to the fullest.

What are we to do with impermanence? Giving in to melancholy will only waste precious time. But going to the other extreme with uninhibited revelry serves little purpose as well. It makes more sense to enjoy each moment while making the best of it. If we can live each moment fully, we will have little regret when our time is up.

3. Appreciating the Flavour of Impermanence

Nature has conditioned cherry blossoms to bloom only once a year. If cherry blossoms were available the whole year round, we would pay less attention to it. But because it only blooms once a year, we do not get bored of its fleeting beauty. It remains fresh in our minds.

By setting a time limit on things, impermanence keeps things fresh. When we have too much of anything, we fail to appreciate its value. But when something is in short supply, its value increases because we cannot get enough of it. Take a live dance performance for example. This event will not last forever, but while it lasts, we can appreciate its magnificence. Thus, impermanence adds a rich flavour to life.

Spirit of the Peacock by Yang Liping

I happened to come across this dancer while watching a Chinese martial arts drama serial. The dance comes on after 30 seconds or so and to me, it is worth the wait. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. :)

Dealing with Impermanence

In the light of the setting sun,
Men either beat the pot and sing
Or loudly bewail the approach of old age.
Misfortune.

Here the end of the day has come. The light of the setting sun calls to mind the fact that life is transitory and conditional. Caught in this external bondage, men are usually robbed of their inner freedom as well. The sense of the transitoriness of life impels them to uninhibited revelry in order to enjoy life while it lasts, or else they yield to melancholy and spoil the precious time by lamenting the approach of old age. Both attitudes are wrong. To the superior man it makes no difference whether death comes early or late. He cultivates himself, awaits his allotted time, and in this way secures his fate. –Yijing Hex 30; 9 in the 3rd place

1. Acceptance

Before we can deal with anything, we have to accept it. This means accepting the change in status quo that impermanence brings. Once change happens, there is no way of going back to how things used to be. All we can do is to learn to adapt to the new situation and this can only happen when we accept it.

2. Awareness

Next, we must be constantly aware of impermanence. It is easy to forget as we go about the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Problems can easily distract us and obscure the fact that nothing lasts forever. Then, when we least expect it, impermanence happens and we end up losing someone or something dear to us. If we have not made full use of the time we had, we will end up with a lifetime of regrets.

3. Nourishment

I am a big believer in proper nourishment for the mind, body and spirit. The right nourishment will lift us up while the wrong one will bring us down. It is no different when it comes to dealing with impermanence. We have to feed our minds on a consistent basis so that we accept impermanence as a part of our lives. With this awareness, we can live each moment as fully as possible while preparing for the inevitable.

Hanami by Stardog Champion

Taking Action

Impermanence is inevitable. No matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid it. But this fact does not have to make us sad. Instead, we should go out and live fully. We should try to squeeze as much as we can out of each moment. This way, we will have a lifetime of memories and experiences behind us. When the inevitable happens, we will have less regrets and an easier time letting go.

What are your thoughts on impermanence? How do you deal with impermanence? Do share your thoughts and comments below. :)

Reference

The I-Ching or Book of Changes Translated by Richard Wilhelm, Cary F. Baynes. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.

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  24 Responses to “The Beauty of Impermanence”

  1. The dancer reminded me of your post about being water. How lovely.

  2. Impermanence is a fact of life.

    I see it as wisdom. It would not be this way if this wasn’t the highest way.

    I wonder about reincarnation, though. Do we come back in this form again? It’s a nice thought to think one gets a shot at life yet again. Or, maybe some do not want to experience this life again.

    Whatever the case, I trust the highest wisdom will prevail.

    • Hi Bamboo Forest,

      Impermanence is a fact of life. Being able to accept this and adapt to it is wisdom indeed.

      It doesn’t really matter whether there is reincarnation or not. We still have to focus on the life we have and live it well. If we can do this, our next lives will take care of itself.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  3. This is a beautiful post, Irving, with such depth. I find that the more I become aware of impermanence, the more it makes me appreciate how precious life and my gift of being able to experience it is.

    My newest grandchild is part Japanese and her (second) middle name is Momonoi, which I’m told means cherry blossom. You’ve given me an even richer understanding of all that represents. Thank you!
    Patti Foy | Lightspirited Being recently posted..Are You Mistaken About What Channeling IsMy Profile

    • Hi Patti,

      I agree with you. Being aware of impermanence does make us appreciate how precious life and its experiences is.

      It is lovely to know that your newest grandchild is part Japanese. She must be adorable! :)

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  4. Thank you for such a beautiful post.

    We often need reminded of impermanence to better find the joy in our present moments. Your post carries this message very well.

    The cherry blossom picture is magical to say the least. Today I am grateful I signed up to get an email from Han of Harmony.

    Thank you

    Tim

    • Hi Tim,

      Yes the cherry blossoms are lovely aren’t they? Just looking at and reading about them reminds me of impermanence and the need to cherish the moments we have.

      Thank you for your lovely comments and support! :)

  5. Hi Irving,
    Impermanence is also one of my favorite topics. Despite the fact that we constantly see death around us we seem to pretend that we’re going to live forever. We understand our impermanence with our logical mind but we act like we’re unaware of it spending our time with futile persuits. When we embrace impermanence we start savor each moment since we know that everything is constantly changing and this very moment will never come back.
    Thanks for this beautifull written and thoughout post. Loving blessings
    Andrea DeBell – britetalk recently posted..Change how you feel- choose happinessMy Profile

    • Hi Andrea,

      Being aware of death is not easy. It can cast a huge shadow over our lives. But we can slowly shift our perspective and learn to accept impermanence as a part and parcel of life. And as you rightly point out, when we accept impermanence we will know what is truly important and savour each moment.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  6. Hi Irving. This topic is a timely one for me. I have been thinking a lot about impermanence lately. Not that i have any big sense that something is going to be taken from me or anything, but I’m trying to remind myself of this in relation to the relationships around me. To my wife. To my kids. To my friends. Nothing is forever. Not one of us know the future. The only moment we have is right now. I try to remember this when my small children get the best of my patience. (And as much as I’d like to say I’m a perfect father, I am not). To remember that this moment is the only one I know I have is a reminder of how impermanent our blessings are.

    This is great, though. It can remind us to treasure our friends, relationships, and family. Thank you for spreading this reminder, my friend. May you have a great day!
    Bryan Thompson recently posted..Comment Debates- Why I’m Changing my Comments from DISQUS to CommentLuvMy Profile

    • Hi Bryan,

      It is good to be aware of impermanence. It helps us to treasure what we have in life, especially our relationships. Small children can be a handful with their boundless energy and innocent ways. Even so, you are right, it is best to be as patient as we can with them for this moment will pass as well.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  7. Irving,

    What I really liked about this article is your positive spin on impermanence. Starting with the title, The Beauty of Impermanence, the focus is on the positive benefits that impermanence can bring to us. I appreciated this angle in particular, “By setting a time limit on things, impermanence keeps things fresh.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with this positive view, although, I’m still working with your first advice on dealing with impermanence – “acceptance.” Some of us seem to have more of a tendency toward fear than others! That’s OK. This discomfort is simply one of my challenges in life and what helps me to grow.

    It was interesting to see how you wove “nourishment” into this theme. If we do indeed nourish our mind with the positive aspects of impermanence, it will bring us many gifts. As you say, impermanence is inevitable, but how we see it is up to us.

    I enjoyed reading your perspective on impermanence. Thanks very much for the kind link too.
    Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted..3 Meaningful Links for Personal GrowthMy Profile

    • Hi Sandra,

      Having gone through numerous separations and reunions with dear friends, it is hard not to appreciate impermanence. Yet as I have mentioned, it is not necessarily something bad.

      Even if you are having trouble with acceptance, your awareness and positive mindset towards it will help you to master this lesson one day. Like everything else in life, practice makes perfect.

      I think a lot of people take nourishment for granted or they are not nourishing themselves effectively. Impermanence is merely another opportunity to ensure we get the right nourishment when dealing with it.

      Thank you for your lovely comments and the inspiration! :)

  8. each moment is given a special meaning when its time limited
    thank you for the post :)

  9. Love the topic on impermanence. Impermanence allows me to know that nothing stays constant. Good times will pass as bad times would too. As you’ve correctly shared, it is about living life fully. And I believe that I already am. I’m extremely thankful to be so wonderfully blessed.
    Evelyn Lim recently posted..How to Be Bold In LifeMy Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      I am glad you enjoyed the topic on impermanence. It is true that nothing in life stays constant. Bad times will surely pass, while we should make the best of good times so that we prolong it. As long as we are aware of the nature of life, we will be able to live fully as you already are doing.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  10. SOOO helpful. Reading this article I just thought of all the things I take for granted – relationships I have been giving little attention to and worldly serenity I have had very little awareness of.

    I think you hit it home for me when you said, “Human beings are odd creatures. We believe we have eternity…” I know I have been living in this illusion. Maybe not even thinking eternity, but definitely reassuring myself on the next 15 or 20 years. That mindset is all that is necessary to set the trap for complacency.

    So as scary as this topic can be, it really is essential and beautiful. This is definitely going to ignite some action on my end. Great piece.

    Cheers!

    • Hi Chris,

      I am glad you found my article helpful and that it will ignite some action on your end. :)

      It is very easy for us to be complacent because of our perception of time. This is something we have to be aware of. But if we can keep this in mind with regards to our relationships and remember that life is fleeting, we will be able to manage our lives much better.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  11. Impermance is defnitely an important part of the cycle of life. And yet the Bible says that everything that was, will be again. It might just come around, clothed differently. The question is, are we aware enough to recognize it no matter what it wears?
    Anne Sales recently posted..epc BelfastMy Profile

    • Hi Anne,

      I am glad that you see impermanence as an important part of the cycle of life. It is much easier to manage impermanence when we accept it as it is. As to whether we can recognize what was when it appears in front of us again, we have to keep our eyes open and stay alert.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  12. [...] to accept change gracefully, we’ll always suffer.  There’s a blessing in embracing the beauty of impermanence.  Through doing so, we will come to value every precious moment of this life and live in a far [...]

  13. [...] learn to accept change gracefully, we’ll always suffer.  There’s a blessing in embracing the beauty of impermanence.  Through doing so, we will come to value every precious moment of this life and live in a far [...]

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