It is Sunday August 13th, 2017. It is my last day living in Montreal. My last day in this city that I have grown into adulthood and into myself more than I ever imagined. A city where I have developed love and compassion for my life, myself, and all of those around me. A city where I have made friends with people I know will last a lifetime. A city where now, part of my family resides. There are really no words that can capture how special my time here has been. How many memories I will cherish. How, for the first time in my life, I am closing a chapter and wouldn’t want anything to have gone any other way. That is a very special feeling.
This morning I am teaching a yoga class to some friends in one of my favourite parks in the city. So, I am up early in order to reflect on the words I would like to share.
One of the important reflections this change has brought about is the concept of impermanence. In particular, surrendering to impermanence. It is funny how when a door is closing, we are suddenly more present, more grateful and more engaged with the daily activities of life. My last walk to the metro from my internship, my last time shopping at my local market, my last yoga practice in my living room, my last jog through the park, my last … (and on and on and on…). Although a large practice for me over the last few years has been maintaining presence and engagement in all activities in my life, this presence and engagement took a new level as I knew I would no longer be engaging in these activities (at this time, and in this place). This was a lesson for me that I can definitely go deeper into this skill. I can be more deeply engaged, appreciative, present and grateful for every moment.
Why must we not wait for things to end to be appreciative? Well, because things are always ending. It is simply our perspective that sees our daily life as repetitive, and big changes as representative of endings. But, every moment is deeply special. Every moment is one of a kind. Every moment is about to change (and therefore end). The wisdom that is available in this understanding is the wisdom that can allow us to be fully present in every moment. When we are fully present in every moment, a door is unlocked to the joy and gratitude that is available to us only through that door of presence.
I know this concept seems so simple. But, through my reflections and readings recently, I have learned that often the simplest concepts are also the most profound, and even the most difficult to practice. As humans, we often have a tendency to confuse knowledge and practice (if I know something conceptually, it must mean I know how to practice it). This couldn’t be more false, and it also leads to us being lazy to cultivate these simple yet difficult skills because we think we ‘get it’. But really learning how to cultivate this sense of presence and gratitude through fully offering ourselves to the present, because we understand that there is no other ‘right now’, is not nearly as simple and easy as understanding it.
So, as meditation means ‘cultivation’ this morning I would like to focus on cultivating this skill. As we move our bodies through asanas, I would like us to come back to the wisdom of impermanence. The wisdom available in right now, and how right now is fleeting. If a pose feels difficult, if we think about when it is going to end, we are not taking in the joy and gratitude that it can give us. However, if we instead think about how our body feels, how our breath feels coming into our bodies as we hold our shapes, how the opening feels, how the breeze feels against our skin, the sounds of the fountain around us – now, we are fully here. We are fully taking in the specialness of that temporary moment, and through that door the joy and gratitude this moment can provide us becomes available. On the other hand, sometimes we love a pose and don’t want it to end. This too is dangerous (and I am sure we can think of many areas of our life where we hold on to something that we don’t want to change). Doing this removes us from surrendering to impermanence because we are trying to control impermanence by being against it, and leads to a lack of presence and thus a locked door to joy and gratitude. When we love something (just as I have loved my life in Montreal), holding on to it through fear of it ending is quite a counterproductive idea – it will only make us miss out on what ‘the now’ can provide us; in ‘the now’ there is always a pervading quality of gratitude and joy when we are there for it.
I may have loved my life here, but, today is about today. Today is about spending time with my loved ones, living in my apartment, and soaking up each moment. Tomorrow will be about tomorrow. My 1 week with my family in Toronto will be fully about them. And, when I arrive in Vancouver, even though arriving there may seem very permanent, it would be very unwise to view it as such. Instead, I accept and fully surrender to the fact that every moment there will be equally impermanent, thus equally special, to the moments I am living right now as I leave Montreal. This is where the practice lies. This is where cultivation (meditation) becomes crucial.
Two months ago, my partner and his parents and I watched in their backyard a Robin build a nest, lay her eggs, her babies grow and depart their nest, over a rather short period of time. The wisdom present in nature can be so profound. The mother built a perfect home for her babies to be born and grow in, but, when it was time to leave, it was time to leave. She didn’t return and look at the home and squander in the fact that her babies were no longer there. No, it was time for them to fly. The next chapter was here, and she was going to surrender to every new moment that came next. Why would we live any other way? Life has moved on, and soon, those special breaths, moments, chapters, will too end. We must be there for them in order not to miss them.
May we all look back at moments in our life and think to ourselves: yeah, I was really ‘there’ for that. All of my presence, joy, and gratitude was with me in that moment, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.