Meditation: 8 Steps to Contemplating Impermanence
You can reflect on these things anytime, anywhere, while doing anything. But, like most practices, it helps to set aside time to focus on it exclusively.
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To get the most out of this practice follow these 8 steps
1. Sit and Relax.
Find a quiet place to sit, and assume your favourite meditation posture. Take a few minutes to simply relax and breathe deeply, releasing any tension or stress you feel in your body.
2. Watch Your Breath.
Focus your attention on your breathing. Feel your chest rise and fall with each breath; feel the air as it flows in arid out of your lungs; feel the brief pause between breaths, the moment of rest arid stillness. Consider how each breath comes arid goes, ebbs and bows like the tide.
Every breath is an exercise in impermanence.
3. Follow the Sensations.
Now expand your awareness to take in all of your five senses. Notice each sight, sound, smell, taste and feeling. See how fleeting they are, how quickly they arise and pass away.
Such is the nature of all phenomena in the universe.
4. Watch Your Thoughts.
If there’s anything more subtle and slippery than physical sensations, it’s the thoughts that pass through the mind like clouds through the sky.
Spend a few minutes watching as ideas, memories, moods and emotions come and go. See how they take shape, as if from nowhere; then see how they dissolve, and fade away like mist.
5. Contemplate All You Have Left Behind.
Look back over the course of your life, at all the things you have seen arid done, the places you have been, the people you’ve known. Where are they now?
Think back to your younger years, the things you thought you knew with such certainty, which have since been revealed as vaive and foolish. See how the years have changed you.
What happened to the young dreamer you used to be?
6. Look Forward Into the Unknown.
Now, cast your thoughts forward in time. Where might you be in one year, two years, and ten years? What will your life be like? How many people will come arid go? How many things, great and small, good arid bad, will happen to you in the years to come?
How might those experiences change you? What convictions are you so sure of now, that tomorrow will be shattered?
The world will never look or feel the same to you again as it does right now. As sure as the sun will set, and night will fall, the person you are today will pass away, and you will become someone new and different.
7. Embrace Your Own Death.
Now look ahead as far as you can, to the inevitable conclusion of your life’s journey. You know how this story ends. No one gets out of here alive.
Everyone you know, everything you love and cherish, eventually you will have to say goodbye. All the cares and concerns of the world, which occupy so much of your thoughts, your time and energy, one day it will all mean nothing. You’ll have to let it all go.
Imagine that. What does it feel like to let everything go? To sever all ties, to be freed and released even from this body that holds you, the name that identihes you, from all that you think of as you?
Sit with that feeling – scary, sad, lonely, liberating, depressing infuriating, whatever. Embrace it. Explore it at depth. Make peace with it, if you can.
8. Come Back to the Present.
When you bring your awareness back to the present, to the here and now, how is your perspective changed? In the cold, clear light of impermanence, what in your life is most important? What doesn’t really matter at all?
Knowing that death is looming over your shoulder, an inevitable fact, what will you do with the time that you have? What if this moment where your last act, your big finale? How would you want to show up, if this moment was all that you had?
Guess what? It is.