Weekly Practice (Impermanence)

| January 24, 2012 | 32 Comments

For this Weekly Practice we are going to explore impermanence. Don’t lament, “Oh, I know everything is impermanent!” No matter what ideas you currently have about impermanence, no matter how much you may have dug into this topic before, let’s look at it in detail this week.

While most of us have a basic awareness that everything in the world is impermanent, if you pay attention, you may catch yourself acting as though some things are ever-lasting. Have you gone into relationships wanting it to last a lifetime? What was your expectations when purchasing a new car? Do you assume your children are going to outlive you? Were you shocked when your work downsized and you had to look for a new job? While we have a cursory understanding that the world is not permanent, we often base our expectations and reactions as though things, situations, and relationships will last forever.

What Buddha Said

(Girimanda Sutta, translation by Piyadassi Thera)

i. “And what, Ananda, is contemplation of impermanence? Herein, Ananda, a monk having gone to the forest or to the foot of a tree or to an empty house (lonely place) contemplates thus: ‘Matter (visible objects) is impermanent; feeling or sensation is impermanent; perception is impermanent; formations are impermanent; consciousness is impermanent. Thus he dwells contemplating impermanence in these five aggregates.’ This, Ananda, is called contemplation of impermanence.

(Girimanda Sutta, translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

[1] “And what is the perception of inconstancy? There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — reflects thus: ‘Form is inconstant, feeling is inconstant, perception is inconstant, fabrications are inconstant, consciousness is inconstant.’ Thus he remains focused on inconstancy with regard to the five clinging-aggregates. This, Ananda, is called the perception of inconstancy.

Question What Buddha Said

Now, let’s not just assume that Buddha is right. Let’s take what he said, and take time each day to sit or engage in moving mediation to explore what was said above. Then you’ll follow this by taking what you learn in meditation into daily life.

Meditations

Set aside time for meditation every day, either sitting or moving, or both. Make sure you’re in a comfortable, safe place, with the likeliness of interruption minimal. You can deviate from the instructions below, but do try them out. You don’t need memorize everything below. Read through the sutta snippets above and the directions below daily before each session.

Sitting meditation:

  •  Set aside time each day for up to an hour. Any amount of time will be of benefit.
  • Once settled into a comfortable position, bring your awareness to the top of your head and bring it slowly down to your neck, shoulders, arms, torso, hips, legs, and feet. Note any sensations, lack of sensations, etc. Take your time doing this.
  • After your initial body scan, bring your awareness to your breath. Follow the breath in and out. Is the breath even or inconsistent? Are you breathing one, long permanent breath, or a series of breaths? What is the feeling at the end of the breath? What is the feeling of the beginning of the next breath? Is breathing an ongoing, ever-changing process? Does the depth and feel of the breath change? Explore the breath in this way, in and out, in and out . . .
  • Inevitably, at some point, body sensations, thoughts, emotions, outside sounds are bound to interrupt your exploration of the breath. Note what arose in your experience. Note the nature of the interruption, your reaction, then gently return to the breath. Continue exploring the breath. If something arises again, notice it, notice your reaction, then return to the breath. Keep doing this for whatever time you can dedicate to it.
  • In the last five minutes or so, bring your awareness to the top of your head again, repeat the same slow body scan you did before. Has anything changed? Are there new body sensations that have arisen? Do you lack feeling in areas that you previously felt? Did any body parts fall asleep? Is anything tingling?
  • Before you rise, recall what you explored, reflect about the interruptions you had from focusing on the breath. Did outside sounds arise and fall away? Did any of the interruptions last, unending? Did thoughts come and go? What were your reactions to these? Did those reactions last? What happened with your conscious awareness? Did you ever find yourself lost in thought?
  • Repeat this mediation every day

Moving mediation:

  • Moving meditation can be done through walking, yoga, tai chi, or simply moving your body in a designated, safe area.
  • Bring your awareness to the top of your head and bring it slowly down to your neck, shoulders, arms, torso, hips, legs, and feet. Notice any sensations, lack of sensations, etc. Take your time doing this.
  • Begin your movements in your preferred form. Pay attention to how each  muscle feels as you move. Notice your breath, in and out. Keep your movements small and deliberate, your attention on your body, as you move your arms or legs. Notice how muscles contract and release. Is there tension in your body anywhere? Can you relax the muscles you are not using?
  • Bring your awareness to balance. How does your balance change as you move? How does your awareness need to change as you shift your balance? Do your muscles perform consistent with each similar movement?
  • Notice when thoughts or emotions arise. As they do, is your balance effected? How often is  your concentration on the movement of your body broken by outside sounds, arising thoughts, feelings, emotions.
  • Near the end of your moving meditation, take time to stand still, and do another body scan. Has any sensations in your body changed? Are some of your muscles tired, relaxed? Do you feel more alert or less alert? How did your conscious awareness shift or change through your meditation.
  • Repeat this session every day.

Bringing Meditation into Daily Living

Meditation on the cushion or through slow, deliberate movements is like laboratory time. We slow life down enough so we can have a close look at it. It’s like taking a dance video and watching it in slow motion. Once the individual movements are seen, the transitions noted, then the normal speed version makes more sense if you want to learn to dance.

By mediating each day, you’ll notice clearly how everything arises and passes away. While exploring impermanence, you notice a lot of other interesting occurrences too, and have special insights into the nature of the five aggregates: matter, sensation, perception, formations, and consciousness (or form, feeling, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness).

Question everything!

As you go through your day, search for something that is permanent, notice all the things that are impermanent. Pay special attention to the aggregates as they arise. Is the annoyance that arises over your boss’ attitude permanent, or does it arise and fall away? How does perception arise and form in the mind? Is it permanent? What happens with your consciousness throughout the day?

Look at your relationship to the people in your life. Observe how your understanding of impermanence, or idea of permanence as the case may be, shapes your expectations of people. Can you consider any of these relationships permanent?

What happens with body feelings? Do they come and go? Are they persistent or permanent? And what about emotions? Are any of your emotions, your reactions to situations shaped and molded by your expectations of permanency? How permanent are emotions? Do you love certain people all the time permanently, or does also arise, fade away, and arise again? What about the person who annoys you most? Are your feelings about that person permanent, or do feeling of annoyance arise and fade away along with feeling of neutrality?

Throughout the week keep asking yourself these questions. Reread the passages above from the suttas. Continue exploring impermanence as you go through your daily tasks, while you’re at work, as you are driving home, cooking dinner, and going to bed at night. What happens to consciousness after your in bed awhile? Is consciousness permanent? Is anything permanent?

Impermanence is one of the Three Marks of Existence. Is it true that impermanence is a trait of existence? Explore . . .

Return here and share your observations, your insights, and discuss with others the interesting discoveries you make.

See All Weekly Practice Exercises

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Category: Weekly Practice

Dana Nourie

About the Author ()

Dana is Technical Director of the Secular Buddhist Association. She learned Buddhism through a DVD course on Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, followed by a two-year course in person. She then studied Theravada Buddhism through the Insight Meditation South Bay with teacher Shaila Catherine. She has been a practitioner now for over a decade. Dana has been working in the internet industry since 1992, has held the positions of web developer, technical writer, and online community manager. She is a geek girl with a passion for science and computing.

Comments (32)

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Secular Buddhist Association | January 28, 2012
  2. Secular Buddhist Association | February 1, 2012
  1. Joop says:

    Hallo Dana
    That’s not an easy practice, it takes time
    But I will try, especially because I like your ideas about a virtual sangha
    Be back in some days

    Joop

  2. Lyman Reed says:

    Thanks for putting this up, Dana. Went through yesterday trying to keep looking for any permanence in anything, and couldn’t even be permanent about keeping that in mind! 🙂

    But seriously… this morning in my sitting meditation my mind kept going back to the fact that there isn’t anything, absolutely nothing, that I know of that wasn’t around at some point in the past, and everything that I know of will stop existing in the future. Including me.

    Let me also second Joop’s sentiment about liking the idea of a virtual sangha. Seems like a great idea.

  3. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Joop, it is a lot to explore, no doubt! Take your time, and if you need more time than a week, take all the time you need. There are no deadlines:-)

    Lyman, notice too how opinions, views, and thoughts are also impermanent, but we sure can cling to them as though they are real, truth, and permanent. Keep exploring in your meditation, and go through the list of questions throughout the day.

    What’s been fascinating to me is in noticing that something is impermanent also slyly reveals the stubborn nature of our expectations of those things, as though they are permanent, or absolute Truth!

    Thanks to all for creating a wonderful community here, and participating in this practice.

    Yes, Joop, it is a lot of work, but pays off in heaps!

  4. PatrickT says:

    Hi Dana. Thanks for putting this together.

    I was thinking today about how sometimes things change very slowly and at other times very quickly, often for no discernible reason.

    For example, I had a difficult relationship with a friend for a long time after I was hurt by something she did. I struggled for a long time, unsuccessfully, to let go of anger. Recently, though, I was able to let go of the anger. This seemed to happen very quickly. I can’t understand why it took so long and why it happened so quickly when it did. Although it’s puzzling the sense of relief and the joy of refinding the friendship is lovely.

    It’s possible to feel quite relaxed about emotions, even strongly negative ones, because we can know that they are impermanent.

  5. Nausauket Nausauket says:

    Hi Dana,
    I echo the others’ thanks. Great idea. I’m a postman and often I have a ways to walk between deliveries. One of my favorite things to do then is meditate on impermanence. I try to see the impermanence in everything I’m aware of; even the concrete of the sidewalk. It often brings about a feeling of being one with everything- a huge changing river. It’s a very pleasant feeling that is,alas, impermanent.

  6. fishdrivingcars says:

    Hi,

    Yes thanks for this idea, I think it’s great!

    I found the walking practice very interesting, observing arising and falling sensations in the body.

    I am currently reading The Wavewatcher’s Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, and this extract really seemed to chime with my experiences this past week:

    “In this sense, you and the wave seem rather alike. Were you able
    to freeze-frame an ocean wave as it was rolling to shore, it would
    be tempting to say that the mound of water before you, held in
    magical suspension, is the wave. But waves aren’t frozen in time,
    and in reality the water within the wave at any moment will be left
    behind an instant later as the wave rolls on. Though the timescales
    are very different, a wave passes through the medium of the water
    in much the same way that you pass through the ‘medium’ of all
    the physical bits of your body”

    However! In the spirit of ‘Question What Buddha Said’, I would be interested in the views of others on the following. In the same book is the following passage, which arguably does reflect the existence of permanence, at least in the this context:

    “Energy never expires – all it can do is to change from one form
    to another. When the waves come crashing on to the shingle their
    energy doesn’t just disappear. It keeps on travelling, but in different
    forms. That ‘grating roar of pebbles’, for instance, is part of the
    waves’ energy transformed into sound. And sound is a type of wave.”

    Clearly this is true – energy is permanent. But I guess the Suttas talk about impermanence of ‘these five aggregates’ i.e. impermanence of sensory experiences, rather than laws of Newtonian physics?

    I’m interested to hear what people think about this. To me it seems that loop-holes such as this aren’t all that important – we’re not dealing with some kind of ‘word of God’ here after all, rather profound observations made by a human being with application in modern life, right?

  7. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Fishdrivingcars, that name makes me giggle every time I see it. Anyway to your point about energy. While energy always exists, as far as we know, the keyword is change. In that sense because energy is continually changing from one medium to the next, or from one form to another, we cannot even call energy permanent.

    When we examine everything in the world for impermanence, what we discover is change and lots of it. In fact everything in the universe changes. Atoms may not go away, but their nature changes as they bond with other atoms. Then energy comes along, breaks molecular bonds and the atom goes onto to become a part of some other molecule changing its nature entirely. Energy transforms from momentum to heat, then spreads out to be fairly still until some other form of energy comes along. Energy doesn’t stay in one form permanently. It’s very nature is that of change!

    Observe in your meditations how your energy changes and transforms. When you cook dinner observe how heat energy changes, how momentum energy transforms. Find a permanent form of energy and I dare say it can’t be called energy because energy by nature IS change!

    • fishdrivingcars says:

      Hi Dana,

      Yes I see what you mean about energy’s nature being change! That’s interesting, thank you.

      On the impermanence of emotion, that is definitely something that I have noticed recently; the futility, and moreover the harm, of grasping to emotions – spending time being mindful of the rising and falling of different emotional states has helped to make this clear. Even though I understood this as a concept previously, it has become more real to me in the past week or so.

  8. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Patrick, yes, seeing the impermance of emotions is so important. You may also have notices how thoughts attempt to prolong or drag out our experience of emotions. Fortunately thoughts too are fleeting so they can’t keep us angry for long. Over time you can learn to let go of trouble-making thoughts. Sounds like you have some good mindfulness going on there!

  9. PatrickT says:

    Hi Dana. Yes, repeating negative thoughts almost certainly reinforced and prolonged the negative feelings. Thankfully those thoughts stopped. Did they exhaust themselves or get bored and just go away? It’s such a relief to step out of the cage of cycling negative thoughts, even if I’m not quite sure how it happened.

  10. PatrickT says:

    Fishdrivingcars, what a coincidence! I’m reading the same book! It’s great, isn’t? I’m reading it to help me in writing a book called, “Let go and jump in”, which will be an introduction to aquabuddhism and wild swimming. We’re hoping to get the photography for it done this summer. If we’re able to interest a publisher, the proceeds will go to cancer charities. Failing that we will publish it on the web.

  11. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Patrick,

    Now that you’ve caught the process at work, you’ll get better and better at initiating it to begin with. Those thoughts may not have exhausted themselves, but now you realize that if and when they arise again, you can mindfully let them go. That is sometimes easier said that done, and often the more you try to let go the more persistent the thoughts become. Be patient. Just keep returning to the present. Distract yourself with wholesome concentration on something else if you need to. Over time letting go of thoughts gets easier.

    Aquabuddhism?

    You know what taught me mindfulness before I even knew about Buddhism was scuba diving. I recall trying to figure out how to bring that same mindfulness onto land. Buddhism helped me do that in a big way!

  12. PatrickT says:

    Dana,

    In a way aquabuddhism is a joke, but I do think that the groundlessness of being in water and water’s obvious impermanence, fluidity and ungraspability can teach us a lot. I’ve been working on some watery meditations, to be done in, or near, water. I’ll send you a FB friend request. If you accept you’ll be able to see a note on aquabuddhism, plus an ‘interview’ with Fish Nhat Hanh. 😉

  13. Bunks Bunks says:

    Hi all – I am new to the buddhist practice but I’m looking forward to following this weekly practice – thanks Dana!

    I have only just heard about this “moving meditation” idea so I thought I’d test it out this morning on my 6 km run. I was always intrigued how difficult it was to keep your mind level and be able to calculate fairly basic mathematics while fatigued from running. I thought I’d take this a step further and try and meditate on impermanence while running.

    It actually worked ok I thought. I had a bit of an epiphany about equanimity too which was nice.

    I’d be interested to hear if anyone else had tried “running meditation”?

    Thanks again Dana.

    Luke

  14. ChrisM says:

    Late to the party, but I’ve arrived! A question or two:

    when noticing and reflecting on arising distractions/thoughts/whatever, which works better: noting and verbalising e.g. “tight feeling in pit of my stomach” maybe followed by “feels like fear” (or suchlike), or being conscious of the (feeling) and maybe the closish correspondence of the (tightness) with (fear)?

    suggestions like reviewing at the end of the session any changes that may have occurred over the session seem to imply that one should make an effort to remember what things were like and compare them to now. Is this pretty a vital thing to do? I find this difficult (and probably rationalise my issues away by saying that it is) perhaps due to age-related decrepitation like much of my increasing forgetfulness.

    Finally, a scan through a few of the earlier practice articles to get a flavour of your offering indicates that you have developed is exactly what I have been looking for for ages. I think it has the potential for a long life, being recycled regularly by the SBA as a wide and deep series for folk who really want help with practise unencumbered with alien cultural assumptions and dated world views. Congrats, Dana!

  15. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Welcome, Chris! And there is no late here. Folks start whenever and however they are ready to:-)

    You have all good questions!

    On noting what arises that takes you off the breath, I don’t actually verbalize or label, but make more of a mental note. I did label in the beginning though. I wouldn’t get too detailed as that could become a big distraction in itself. Do whatever feels comfortable, maybe just the label thought, or fear, or boredom. You needn’t and shouldn’t do any deep analysis at this point.

    Reflecting on your meditation session afterwards is very important. And here’s the thing. The more your mindfulness develops over time, the more you remember. You needn’t recall every thought that arose (please don’t!), or every emotion. Instead it’s more like, “Wow, my head was filled with thoughts over that argument I had yesterday, followed by a few nice quite moments on the breath.” Or it might be, “Focus on the breath was fairly steady, with a few thoughts of need to do things for the day, and then back to the breath without much effort. Over time, you’ll notice patterns, discover little tricks your mind tries to play on you, and even better, over time you’ll learn to let go of the tricks, not fall for them.

    Still after 10 years of meditating, when I sit, my mind pops out an annoying list of things I need to do that day. So, I’ve come to accept that the first 5 minutes of my meditation is going to be an interruption of focusing on the breath with: send that email to Susan, fix that graphic, add those videos to the site, don’t forget to send so and so the code, etc. After about 5 minutes of my going back to the breath each time one of those reminders comes up, my mind settles down.

    We learn from all of these experiences, which is why it’s a good idea to reflect on how that meditation went. What was the biggest challenge? What did you learn if anything, how your meditation, your mind, your emotions? Sometimes there is not much to reflect on. You may realize, today concentration on the breath was good, felt calm and relaxed. And that’s it! Other times, the meditation reveals all kinds of issues that are bothering you, your lack of focus, extreme boredom, etc. These are good to note.

    When I first started meditating, I hated it. It bored the heck out of me. I wanted to do anything but meditate. So my teacher told me, then sit with the boredom. Explore what boredom is, where it comes from, why is it so difficult for me?

    I’m so glad you find this series helpful. Don’t hesitate to share your experiences, ask questions and comments on other posts:-)

  16. KimberleyJade says:

    Im new to secular buddhism as well, Ive read Buddhism without Beliefs and have had bit of a look online.

    Impermanence of the self is an area of most interest to me at the moment. Im currently trying to make my life more meaningful everyday and less about living for certain moments. Also less about just following the flow of society and more about understanding its flow. I feel Anglo-Australian culture doesnt have much guidance for living a meaningful life as we are so confused by media and the variety of peoples beliefs of what is good for us. In finding secular buddhism Ive found it is akin to many of my own beliefs and it offers good ideas to make my life more meaningful.

    While I feel that im making my life more meaningful, there are times where I question whether I have at all. I think this is part of myself clinging to the idea that my self has permanence. Even though I enjoy and accept the idea I can change my life, I at times still find myself doubting so. I have gone from “trying out a more meaningful path for a few months” to “maybe once awakened I wont be able to go back to ignorance”. Now just thinking about it, self change can be self driven or happen without our control. I can choose ignorance/a self-centered life or gradually become more deeply so without practice.

    Other examples of self impermanence. Our brain may not always be ours to control, while it is while fully functioning say a car accident may impair it, old age may confuse it. Also our bodys will not always run so smoothly or look the same.

    I hope that wasnt too all over the place and made sense =)

    Thank you

  17. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Kimberly, welcome to the site, and thank you so much for sharing.

    One thing that jumps out at me in your words is maybe you might consider if you may be clinging to the idea that life has to have meaning. While some people find it useful to apply meaning to their lives, explore what it might feel to let go of that concept, or what a meaningful life is? Clinging to the idea that life must have meaning can cause us to set up expectations or disappointment. What would it feel like to let go of that concept? I’m not saying it’s right or wrong to have meaning for life . . . I’m just suggesting that is a good area to explore, especially given that everything is impermanent and in constant change.

    Indeed, we don’t have full control of our brains and bodies. It’s also good to explore what areas we do have choices in, what areas will go their way regardless of our desires (such as aging and death).

    It sounds like you are off to a great start in your practice! Welcome to the site, and thank you for sharing. Don’t hesitate to continue commenting or asking questions.

  18. KimberleyJade says:

    Thank you for your input, thoughts and response =)

    Perhaps meaningful isnt the right word, im still learning the best way to describe my experiences and understanding. Maybe mindfull is better or awareness. An example is instead of midweek, collapsing on the couch after a long day of work, being annoyed that I have to cook then watching tv all night while flicking through a unfiltered face book wall, use my time more enjoyable. Another, instead of being fustrated that im not going out saturday night with friends accept thats out of my control and I can still have an enjoyable night whether I do things by myself, spend it with family or just relaxing home with friends. But also that negative feelings will surface but they are impermanent

  19. jaumesubirachs jaumesubirachs says:

    Thank you Dana.

  20. ThomasB ThomasB says:

    I noticed myself doing things as if they were permanent. Then I noticed that they will end at some point, and that was a some strange feeling at that moment. My new appartment is great, but I will be living here just for one year. I spent my week noticing impermanence at my new appartment, the small cracks in the walls, the leaves falling off the tree in front of my window, and my moving in here a few days ago, bringing some new life to this place. The piles of planks, putting together my furniture, my shelf just standing there. Moving turned out to be a great opportunity for seeing impermanence.
    I had a hard time doing sitting meditation, somehow I was excited and figgety and I didn’t manage to sit still for that long.
    Thank you Dana for putting up this practice!

  21. Candol says:

    “After your initial body scan, bring your awareness to your breath. Follow the breath in and out. Is the breath even or inconsistent? Are you breathing one, long permanent breath, or a series of breaths? What is the feeling at the end of the breath? What is the feeling of the beginning of the next breath? Is breathing an ongoing, ever-changing process? Does the depth and feel of the breath change? Explore the breath in this way, in and out, in and out . . .”

    Hi Dana

    I just started rereading through your meditations for inspiration for my group. About this paragraph above, do you know, when i was at the monastery, it wasn’t necessary to explore and ask questions of the breath. Instead what i found was that with each passing day, i just noticed more details. I didn’t have to enquire. I think as your concentration and as your mind slows down, you do naturally start to notice more things. So long (perhaps) as there’s someone there to ask you “what did you notice”.

    However, if you are only doing an hour a day or less, chances are you won’t be able to notice too many of these details. Your mind will wander so much and your breath is not quiet enough. AT least this is what i have found. Even now that i have left the monastery and life has gotten busy again and i’m meditating less, when i do meditate, i don’t get to notice so much going on.

  22. Jennifer Hawkins Jennifer Hawkins says:

    My first reaction to reading the “Bringing Meditation into Daily Life” section was that I can see the impermanence in anything if I take a moment to think about it. However, ” Observe how your understanding of impermanence, or idea of permanence as the case may be, shapes your expectations of people” opened my mind. I do live my day to day life as if there is permanence and it shapes my thoughts/actions/speech/etc. I have to ponder whether or not this is a good thing. (On the one hand, things will change and a different mindset can be beneficial. On the other hand – no one else thinks this way and it could prove a hinderance to “normal interactions”)

    “How permanent are emotions? Do you love certain people all the time permanently, or does also arise, fade away, and arise again?” was also a highly beneficial quote for me. I’m about to get married and it’s true – my feelings have changed and in any long term relationship love changes from “fiery” to “steady.” This isn’t a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. You have to actively renew your love in order to make it last. You have to have reasonable expectations too; it’s okay to not always be “in love,” as long as you love (if that makes sense). …I feel like I’ll end up adding this quote to the wedding somewhere, lol.

    Anyways, before the wedding even, I have a big event coming up. If it goes the way it should and I (greedily?) desire it to, then I will start to receive financial benefits that, in my mind, will give us some security and even some ability to work towards “wants.” But I realize (now at least), that I won’t remain satisfied with even this (unless I work to remain satisfied and not to crave). Also, there’s some chance that things won’t go the way they should and the way I want them to. I’ve been avoiding facing that possibility mentally. But today, I made facing that part of my impermanence meditation and I was able to answer the question of, “What if things don’t go the way I want.” The answer is – that I work on being satisfied with what I currently have. That I let go of craving. It will be hard for me, but that’s what I’ll have to do. Anyways, maybe I let myself wander too much during this meditation, but on the other hand, meditation was the time when I was most able to deal with the issue. Just wanted to share my positive experience.

    Thanks for posting this.

  23. Jennifer Hawkins Jennifer Hawkins says:

    I went into these exercises expecting to always find the impermanence. But today, I found some that I struggled with: the past, family, old age, death. The past already happened and can’t change. And while there might be slight changes to the other, they are inevitable – even the Buddha says so. But after a few more minutes, I thought that as we move through time, what is the past changes (gets added to), so that’s the impermanence of the past. As for the others, I thought of the sun (since I could sense light one my eyes). It will end. By then, the human race will have ended – and with it the paradigms of family, old age, and death. This seems to be a satisfying answer for now, but these were challenging.

  24. Judy-M Judy-M says:

    Hello Dana – I have started meditation for the past week or so – but your techniques seem great – I know it will take me more than a week to master this first lesson – and I was wondering if I could incorporate both the moving and sedentary meditations – the sitting ones seem ‘easier’ if you wish to call it that, but…

  25. Marian says:

    Hello Dana ~ Thanks so much for providing this practice. My question is a general one that I am applying to the this: “For this Weekly Practice we are going to explore impermanence.”

    How do we incorporate an exploration of impermanence – or whatever it is we are exploring – into a practice that is about focusing on the breath. It seems a practice that includes exploration of some concept would conflict with a single pointed focus or concentration practice on the breath, for example. Please advise 🙂

  26. Mark Knickelbine says:

    Hi, Marian —

    One of the neat things about dharma practice is that we are not just acquiring intellectual knowledge. We’re engaged in experiential learning, actually changing the way our perceptual apparatus works. So with breath focus, a conceptual thought may cross your mind as you observe how the breath is constantly changing and how each breath arises and disappears. But thoughts naturally arise as we meditate anyway. As you are practicing, however, your body and mind become more attuned to the impermanence of things, and you begin to experience things as being less firmly fixed and stable. And working with the breath allows you to relax and accept the impermanent nature of things without as much grasping. I love how the dharma works — all the practices and all the doctrine are only here to remind the body-mind of a capacity it already has to rest in the mysterious space of awareness. We don’t have to struggle — just apply some patient energy. Hope this helps!

    • Marian Morgan says:

      Hi Mark, thanks for your response – which I just discovered! In the week that’s past since posting, I’ve been allowing for the awareness of impermanence to lightly envelop a thought when I’ve noticed it arises. What I’m getting from you is to pay attention to the breath – to observe it more intentionally (without grasping) – rather than simply noticing it. So it becomes a “both and.”

      • Mark Knickelbine says:

        Marian —

        That would be a good way to proceed. Awareness of sounds is also a great way to become attuned to the nature of impermanence. You could put on a recording of some singing bowls and just notice how each chime constantly changes and gradually disappears. Thoughts, as you have discovered, are also a good meditation object, not only because they are so obviously not-self and impermanent, but because observing them reminds us that they aren’t us and we don’t have to be carried away by them. Good luck!

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