By Esteban da Cruz
Life is a process which is in a state of constant flux, changing from one moment to the next incessantly. It seems self-evident that one of the few invariables we experience is the variability of our experience. But, practically, as beings who crave control, where does that leave us? We can say with complete certainty that whatever we hope to hold forever will one day disappear, and that whatever we hope to keep away forever will one day arrive.
We have to look no further than our immediate experience to confirm this. Our bodies change from day to day and year to year, our breath changes from second to second, our minds fluctuate from thought to thought each instant and, hopefully, gradually change for the better; our opinions mature, our perspectives improve, our tolerance grows.
A daily practice of yoga or meditation (or, ideally, both) can serve as a platform from which we can observe our constantly changing selves, and the environments in which they are embedded. In creating a ritual of consistency, we can cut through the uncertainty that surrounds us. By making a commitment to arrive on our mats or meditation cushions every day, if only for a few minutes, we make the conscious decision to take control of those parts of our lives over which we can take control. We decide that, if all that exists shifts constantly, then at the very least we will learn to observe it every day from a fixed “location,” or perspective—that is to say, the awareness we establish in practice.
Two things will begin to happen as we develop a daily practice of this kind. The first is that in using the consistency of our practice as a backdrop for the fluctuations that surround and pervade us, like a white sheet of paper highlighting and contrasting black ink, we begin to discern, amidst those things that do change constantly, glimpses of the things that do not change; our awareness is constant, true love is constant, change is constant, the laws that govern the natural world and our bodies are constant, etc.
The second thing that happens stems from the first; in seeing that all is changing unendingly, we learn to let go of our attachments to any of it. This is not to say that we do not appreciate joy when it arises, but it is to say that we know how to release it when it passes. It is to say that, not only do we learn to appreciate joy for what it is, but we also learn to appreciate pain for what it brings our lives; the lessons of compassion, empathy, and perspective it can teach us, for example.
A daily practice of observing our selves can help us step back from the vortex of our experience. If life is a wild current over which we have little to no control, can we fight and swim upstream? No. Should we allow ourselves to be swept uncontrollably in directions that do not suit us? No. What we can do, is step out of the current and observe it with a knowing smile, from the safety of the shore.