This month in our women’s circle we discussed the topic of impermanence. This is a difficult topic to ponder for many of us. No matter how we desire to keep the important things in our life as they are, we can not. Impermanence is a constant. We are always changing, evolving, growing, and yes dying. Dying in both a symbolic way and eventually in a literal way. We all experience many, many changes throughout our lives. It is hard to let go, but I believe there is also a comfort there. Yes life is fleeting. Yes change happens. You age, your relationships sometimes come to an end, your children grow, life as you know it now ceases to exist. But often new life unfolds, new beauty, new relationships, and new experiences. These too are impermanent, however… Impermanence is our guarantee in this life. So what is our relationship with it? In the following excerpt from our circle meditation, written and led by Dorothy Verbick, she guides us in thinking through our own relationship with impermanence.
“We are in constant changing motion and so is the world around us. We are all particles moving in and around and forming new particles that fall apart to create new particles but never the same. Imagine that you are near a stage. This is the stage of impermanence. Anything you put here will disappear. Think about what is your most prized possession. Walk over and set it on the stage. It disappears. How do you feel? Now think about more objects and items you like and add those to the stage. Those too disappear. Now watch your closest friends walk to the stage. Your pets. Your family. And finally, yourself. Watch yourself fade. Let yourself go along with everything you are attached to. It is OK to have feelings within thinking of letting go, but what message can impermanence teach us about what we are seeking in life? Where will we go with this message and how are we living our life to ease the pains of impermanence?
Take a quick moment to examine your own feelings on impermanence. How did you feel as you imagined the visualization above?
For me when I imagined my family on that stage…disappearing… I thought initially of death. My heart sank. I then began to change my perspective a bit, instead of a literal death I thought of a change, a change in the dynamic of the family I love and know now to the family that I will love and know in the future. There is still a feeling of loss but it is not entirely sadness. I look forward to who they will become, to knowing them in a new way. Just as I look back an reminisce abut what has past with sadness and fondness intertwined so do I look forward with sadness and fondness to what is yet unknown.
In our circles we combine our discussions and meditations with a creative prompt or exercise. For me the idea of impermanence fit so neatly into a practice in creating art…the process of creating art. It is true that many of us do not see ourselves as creative or artists, however to create is our birth rite. We are born of creative energy and we are innately creative beings. We create our homes, the food we eat, our relationships, and so much more.
Art is one way that we can explore our creativity. To create art we do not have to create something that is destined to hang on a gallery wall, in fact what we create does not even have to last longer than it takes us to create it. It does not even have to be seen t all if we so choose!
So with that in mind we chose to create chalk drawings:
Impermanence in art is the concept that not all art need stand the test of time. This concept has been embraced in many cultures. The tradition of Tibetan sand mandalas, created by the Tibetan monks. These elaborate and beautiful mandalas are painstakingly created using colored sand. Once the ritual mandalas are complete and the ceremonies and viewing is over they are they are destroyed.
The Japanese culture uses the word wabi-sabi to describe a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. This term when applied to art that acknowledges the beauty of the imperfect, indeterminate, and incomplete.
Many contemporary artists have embraced the idea of impermanence in their art, creating temporary art that is meant to only be viewed for a short period of time. A great example of this is Knoxville’s annual chalk walk which hosts both professional and amateur artists of all ages who create beautiful chalk drawings in downtown Knoxville to be viewed and enjoyed for a short time before they are wiped clean by passing feet, wind, or rain.
So why create temporary art? Why put time and effort into something that is impermanent? Well I believe that it is that process of creating that holds the magic, making it a worthwhile activity. It honors your own creative spirit, it is time for self reflection and for personal growth. It can be shared or it can remain personal. Once you are done creating, your work is over, and it can be released.