Impermanence Rilke

Quote excerpted from A Year with Rilke (Barrows and Macy)


One of the fundamental things in life is impermanence, the fact that everything (including ourselves) is constantly changing. Yet, this is also something we often resist or deny. As the poet Rilke says, we most often conceal our own impermanence from ourselves.

As I reflected on Rilke’s words the other day, I decided to take a walk and photograph examples of impermanence, things that might not be there or be the same the next time I take the same walk. I saw peeling paint, snowmen, tire tracks, Christmas trees in the trash, and orange leaves hanging on by a thread.

Impermanence was everywhere.

I realized that every time I take a walk, it is never the same. How exciting is that?

I also walked by an area where we had stayed with family about eight years ago. At that time, this town was a nice place to visit. I had no idea that I would be living here only a short time later. Yes, we had thoughts of moving back to Canada someday, but this place was not on the radar. How things can change!

In the Adventures in Seeing workshop, we explore the topic of openness. What if we were open to and accepting of the idea of impermanence, especially in ourselves? We are never the same. Each moment is a new beginning. Hopefully, we’re always learning and growing, even as our physical selves age.

In the book, The Monks and Me, Mary Paterson describes Tibetan monk Thich Knat Hanh’s thoughts on impermanence.

“By contemplating the impermanent nature of everything, we realize that our pain is not endless – a vital understanding for our health and well-being.”

On the flip side, we also understand that our joy is not endless either; it will come back again too. And that makes our joy all that much sweeter.


Be on the lookout for impermanence today.

See: My Flickr set on Impermanence.

Read: Huffington Post Article – End of History Illusion: Study Shows we Underestimate How Much we’ll Change in the Future

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