The Trauma of Impermanence

Image: Andres Amador via Colossal
Image: Andres Amador via Colossal

Dear Friends,

It’s oftentimes the case that people think meditation is supposed to make it so that we never have a bad day. This is true in one sense (and in the most important sense), but it should not be misunderstood to mean that our lives will always be perfect problem free zones.  Because we have a material body, we will all receive (based on our previous karma) certain amounts of happiness and distress whether we meditate or not.

If we look back on our lives over the last year or so, or even longer than that, we could all make a long list of problems, great and small, that we have had to deal with – and there is no doubt that we will all inevitably have to face more as the future unfolds.  All these various kinds of traumas were categorized many long ages ago in Yoga teaching, so it’s not that we are dealing with some specifically modern affliction here.  Because we live in a technological age, the problems may manifest differently than they did times past, but their essence is unchanged.  It would take much more space that we have here to list and discuss them all in detail, but they can be summed up in one word – temporariness. That is the root cause of all our traumas.

We want to keep our physical beauty, but we grow old. We find someone to love, and then they take up with someone else.  I have a great job, and then the economy sags and I lose my job. There is relative peace in the world ( in some places) but the threat of war never seems far away. We invested in a sure thing, but we lost our money.  I don’t have any money to invest in the first place. We finally embrace what we think will be never ending happiness, and it evaporates. I’ve had the ‘perfect’ relationship, but now the gloss is fading. One moment we are having a happy and joyous experience in some relationship, and in the next we are being wrenched by some bitter dispute. I’m the great winner Tom Cruise and I’m soooo in love with another winner, but now she wants to leave, and now I have to worry about the size of the settlement. And then of course we will all one day have to face the ultimate impermanence – the ultimate settlement – the death of our physical body, where we lose the lot.

On and on and on, whether we are so called ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ we are all afflicted by the trauma of impermanence – temporariness, and in this way, even the so called winners are actually losers.

‘ An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses.  O son of Kunti,  such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so a wise person does not delight in them.’      Bhagavad Gita  5/22

Every hassle and problem and mishap and suffering and stress should be seen as a huge flashing neon sign, that says – don’t enter here, material happiness is not only second rate, but it won’t last. In one much celebrated case in the history of Yoga experience, there was a great queen who actually desired to be always be in difficulty, because in that state, she was less susceptible to being caught up in the illusion of those pleasures that have ‘ a beginning and an end’ –  she was more easily able to remember and fix her heart on her true and permanent best interest.

Thus, whether we are in some immediate difficulty or not, the solution to this universal and age old trauma of impermanence, is to simply recognize that it is an inevitable fact of material life that will never change. Rather than expending our valuable time and energy on the futile and frustrating endeavour of trying to hold back the tide,  and trying to make permanent, that which is inherently impermanent,  the way of Yoga is to simply seek our happiness in that which is actually permanent – our spiritual relationship with the Divine.

 Best Wishes                                                                                                                                 Jiva

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