Embracing Impermanence

By Heather Lilleston, June, 2009

“Impermanence can teach you a lot about how to cheer up”- Pema Chodron

Impermanence is something we usually prefer to avoid facing. We like when things are settled and dependable. We like to know that when we come home it is how we left it, that when we fall in love, we will stay in love; we like the security of knowing who we are and what’s next.

I can remember my first pair of sneakers, they were pink and white and when I started to outgrow them, I refused to believe it. My mom still reminds me how I loved them so much I even wore them to bed.

Of course there comes a time when we outgrow something, it outgrows us, or things simply change. We are asked to look at our attachments and illusions about something fundamentally groundless. The great Yogi, Master Patanjali reminds us in the Yoga Sutras (II.15) that it is the most pleasurable things in our lives that are actually the most painful, because eventually we will have to let them go.

In a yoga class I took a few weeks ago, the teacher had us hold that horribly awkward pose, Utkatasana for a horribly long time. She asked the class if the feeling we were experiencing was how it felt to be us, and how it was always going to feel. Although we knew we would soon transition into a different pose, we were completely engrossed in the difficulty of the moment. When you are immersed in such a heightened state you start to embrace the permanence of impermanence. You start to love it! In fact, you are mentally trying to woo it into existence so your legs, shoulders and back can have relief.

When we finally did release into a forward bend, you could sense the whole room in celebration. We were thanking the Gods of impermanence!

But impermanence isn’t only worth embracing in times of difficulty, when we are reminded, this too shall pass…

It is because of impermanence that not only do painful times pass, but also great opportunities come. It is due to the beautiful fact that nothing is fixed or written in stone that we are able to transform. The next time you feel you have slipped into negative tendencies, remember nothing is permanent about who you are or what you are capable of. When you change just one aspect of yourself you have unveiled the farse of permanence. It is always possible for us to be healthier, more forgiving, more loving, happy in our jobs and with our partners. Without impermanence yoga practice could accomplish very little. It’s the transient nature of the body and mind that allows it to open and to ease up on its chit-chat.

The inevitability of change and the act of embracing this fact, brings us, as yogis, into a truthful state of mind. We are no longer blinded by false perceptions, we are seeing clearly the nature of reality.

The next time someone annoys you, remember impermanence. The next time you find yourself laughing and completely content, also remember impermanence. It is teaching you about the preciousness of the moment. Let it invoke your gratitude and appreciation for what is, and your openness to the miracles yet to come.

Looking forward to celebrating the summer with everyone at Yoga Shanti!

With Joy,


Heather Lilleston

Heather is a Yoga Shanti-trained teacher, an advanced Jivamukti yoga teacher, and co-founder of Yoga For Bad People. She currently lives in the tropical island oasis of Manhattan, traveling to cold cities worldwide to teach retreats. You can find her at Yoga Shanti Sag and NYC, Yoga Vida NYC, and Love Yoga, Montauk.

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