People across East Asia have honored the cherry blossom with festivals, sitting under the pink floral clouds with wonder and awe, picnicking and sipping afternoon tea. This tradition spread to the West, notably in Washington DC where the flowering trees line the path to the Jefferson Memorial. Why has the beauty of the cherry blossom captured the attention of so many across the world?
Every spring, there’s a brief period when the cherry blossoms bloom. Rows of trees become brightly white and pink, sweet floral scents travel with the spring breeze. And as quickly as they had graced us with their spectacular color and beauty, they fly off with the wind, landing softly on the ground, disappearing back to the soil. The cherry blossom perfectly symbolizes what life is: beautiful but brief.
The cherry blossom season is one of nature’s reminders that life is short. Each moment is precious.
For the upcoming year at Evolutions Annapolis we invite you to join us as we set our intention each month to guide our practice, our training and our mindset. Inside the facility and where ever we go. The idea is that all programs at Evolutions Annapolis will follow the themes of this unique intention and that the content online will follow suit.
Our monthly intention for September is Embracing Fluidity – The Nature of Impermanence.
We eat our meals to fill our stomachs, knowing we’ll be hungry again. We wash dishes, knowing they will be used again. We do laundry, knowing they will be worn and dirty again. We commute to work (many times begrudgingly), taking comfort that we’ll come home again. We do these without even a thought to the reality of impermanence, but we live out our days yearning for stability and even immortality.
When stuff happens that destroys these illusions (or rather, when they remind us of impermanence of life), we tend to get anxious or depressed. When there’s an illness, it’s a sudden reminder of our vulnerability and mortality. When there’s a setback at work, it’s a reminder that life is never a straight, steady track. When we look at our bodies, we are reminded that we are aging with each season.
The realization that our physical bodies have a peak ‘blossoming’ time is both bittersweet and enlightening at the same time.
Let’s take the example of yoga asanas. For the beginner, yoga may be very difficult, but many are surprised at how quickly the body adjusts to these new poses and moves. For the first few weeks, it may have seemed like you could do anything, and that your ideal body was within reach. The brief moments of awkwardness and discomfort quickly dissipated once our bodies started to adapt. However, once we became comfortable, it’s all too common for further improvement and advancement to become harder to achieve. We feel like we plateaued, and this is when many just give up or get bored.
For the many who are dedicated, the improvements can seem to be too far in between. As we age, the focus is on small, gradual improvements, but too many of us feel agitated at the realization that our bodies are not limber and strong as they were just ten years ago.
We then realized that those moments of rapid improvement were temporary. We are now reminded that the bodies of our youth, the high degree of physical potential, no longer exists. We often regret not taking full advantage of having more tomorrows than yesterdays. We finally start to understand the saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.” However, this is when wisdom can settle in and we have the opportunity to embrace the true nature of the universe; constant flux.
Realizing this truth, that all things are impermanent, is honoring the truth of life. Instead of clinging to the past with regret, we can accept what has happened, live in the present, and appreciate what’s real. Instead of worrying about the future, we can live in the moment without treating it as an obstacle in the way of an imagined future.
Many modern societies have become obsessed with looking youthful: botox, plastic surgery, skincare products all cater to our resistance to change and reality. Once we remember the truth that nothing lasts forever, we can have a healthier relationship with society’s misguided expectations and standards of youth and beauty which are often based on financial gain not reality.
Accept the present moment. Regardless of how you feel about your life or situation, remember that “this too shall pass.” With age comes wisdom; you have more examples to draw from, more events in your life that serve as more reminders of the impermanence of life.
Once you accept the truth, be aware, and not just in the abstract. While doing everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, jogging etc., be aware that the moment is fleeting. It is the precious moments of an ordinary day that are near and dear to most of us, especially when they are stripped away by disaster or extreme loss. These seemingly simple, everyday tasks are now expressions of life itself: moving through the moments, accepting the impermanence, and embracing everything there is.
At the time of writing for this blog, we are entering the Fall season. Again, we are reminded how fast time goes by. The blooming of the cherry blossoms is in the distant past, and now the leaves are beginning to change color, soon to fall and disappear into the earth, returning to its essence once again. Everything in existence reminds us of the beauty of impermanence: from a blossoming of a single flower to the revolution of the earth around the sun to our eventual return to that from which we came.
The only constant in life is change. Once we embrace this, we can live how life is supposed to be lived: with reverence for the precious nature of each moment and every encounter.
How are you embracing impermanence in your practice or training? What beauty can you find in the fluidity of life?
Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Instagram @Evolutions, using hashtag #EvolutionIntention.