22 September 2014


This morning, while taking a short break from the bustle of emails and to-do lists, I was reminded of the impermanence of everything around us. Enjoying the sun for a few sweet minutes, I was served a lovely green tea latte, adorned with a frothy white leaf design. Before destroying the thoughtful detail of my barista, I had a moment of "oh! let me capture this!" But instead of taking a picture (that I would never look at again anyways), I took pause to smile and enjoy the art. And then laughed to myself as I used the small spoon to whisk it into nonexistence. Latte art: beautiful as it is, you must accept its impermanence to enjoy the underlying contents. If you broke down every time you got a latte, resigning to forgo the tea for fear of destroying that perfectly crafted foam, you'd never get to taste the yummy latte that awaits your lips beneath it. 

I see this is a microcosm of life.

If you need an experience to help you accept the reality of impermanence, I encourage you to go to Burning Man. This annual event fully embraces impermanence, demanding that every burner also accept and comply with this reality. A whole city, built as a magical playground for 65,000 people, goes up and then is torn down, seemingly overnight. The playa is here - radiant, warm, and stimulating - and then gone. Massive art installations, breathtaking in their detail and invitation to interact, are burnt to the ground in their infancy. You develop a tummy-tingling closeness and familiarity with the love and peace you feel in their presence, and then they are turned to ashes. You connect with people from all over the world, waking up next to them day after day, stealing every chance you get to explore and share with them, and then they all fly back to their respective homes. You feel the impermanence at every turn at Burning Man. You can't escape it, so you accept it and RUN with it, using it to fuel your unleashed, open-hearted journey. (Note: if you can't make it to Burning Man, try the more local playa. Enjoy an afternoon at the beach building a sand castle. Take your time crafting the towers and collecting trinkets to adorn the walls. Sooner or later, you will have to accept that you can't bring the sand castle home, nor will the wind or waves spare its life at the beach.)

"Humanness" and "mortality" are actually synonyms for impermanence. Life is, obviously, impermanent. And, even before your life ends, gobbling up all of its material elements like a massive tidal wave, the things you've nestled in your life are impermanent too. That sandcastle. Friendships. Family members. Your beloved pet. That I-had-to-have-it Persian rug. Your car. Your job. Your favorite candle, which you decidedly only burn on "special occasions" so that it doesn't melt away to a solitary wick. JUST BURN IT ALREADY. Enjoy it, right now. While we try to feign permanence and surround ourselves with people and things that feel familiar and make us feel untouchable, there really are no guarantees. Do you live recognizing and honoring the fact that everything -- your possessions, your loved ones, your own life -- could be taken from you at any moment? Perhaps you do realize this, and use it as a reason to live in fear and avoid forming intimate relationships with yourself and others. It can go both ways. 

If you notice that you feign permanence or try to hide from the reality of our mortality, I encourage you to develop a new relationship with this fact. Practice in small ways living as if everything could be swept away in the next moment. Maybe you will say hello to that neighboring patron you were eyeing at the coffee shop. Maybe you will donate half of that untouched wardrobe to GoodWill. Maybe you will call your grandma more often. Maybe you'll wake up each morning and appreciate, rather than resent, your body. Maybe you will finally take that trip that's been on your vision board for years. Maybe you'll start to choose love, instead of fear, every time.

"Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay."

- Robert Frost

O, Karen O. So much love for you.

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