Impermanence and What’s Changing at the Studio
“Ah the knowledge of impermanence that haunts our days is their very fragrance.” – Rilke
When I began writing this monthly letter to all of you back in 2004, it was a way to update our two hundred-or-so readers about the happenings at the studio. Now and then I would drop in a favorite poem or story, and after a year or two I was writing essays about my mindfulness practice, the questions it raised, and how mindfulness was slowly transforming my relationship to everything.
Little did I know that today we would be sending this to about 7000 readers, I would have my own mindfulness blog and be awaiting publication of a book on how I used mindfulness to heal my relationship with food.
Impermanence is like that, it sneaks up on you.
Last month as we were lying in bed, my husband Paul and I started talking about our upcoming move out of the house we have lived in for the last 19 years—the one that is a 3-minute walk from Circle Yoga—to a townhouse near Dupont Circle. Paul mused, “When we move, maybe we should trash all the old stained towels and worn-out sheets and get all new ones.” I stayed silent thinking about those old towels—stained by our kids many teenage skin and hair products—and the sheets I washed over and over when sick kids had night sweats, other bodily issues, or just over time. When Paul looked over at me, I was crying.
I cried not because I loved looking at our stained old linens, but because I knew that even if we kept the old linens with us forever, it wouldn’t stop the clock from ticking, our children from growing up, or us from growing old. Letting go of the linens along with letting go of the house felt a little like letting go of an era and accepting that we are now in a different phase of life, frankly one step closer to the end of this life as we know it. Letting go, at least for me, always involves some mourning.
This isn’t the only letting go I am facing this month. In addition to the house (and the sheets and towels), I am letting go of my book—having reviewed it one last time. I’m also finishing a two-year Focusing Professional training. And, most significantly, I am letting go of the role of Director of Circle Yoga.
Later this month, Anne K. will take over the operations of the studio as Executive Director with Linda continuing as Director of Programming. Our other wonderful administrative staff, including Gayle, Sarah, Penny, Susan and Jen will stay put.
I still love Circle Yoga and I believe wholeheartedly in our mission to bring yoga and mindfulness to the community. But because I am doing so in lots of new ways, we, as a cooperative, decided it would be best for the studio to have an operational leader who is an integral part of the management team and someone many of you already know quite well.
So while you won’t see me as often at the studio, I’ll be sharing mindfulness and yoga through my writing, the mindfulness community that meets at Circle Yoga three times a week, and my teaching. If you want to find me, I am nearly always at our Monday evening meditation. And although I am taking a teaching sabbatical for the next several months to do some traveling and self-study, you can be the first to hear about the new-and-improved Year of Mindfulness program I will be offering starting in the fall of 2016 by clicking here.
I will also continue to be involved in several local non-profits, including MINDS, which is bringing mindfulness to local DC area schools; Healthy Living, which teaches natural foods cooking to at-risk adults and youth, and Insight on the Inside, through which I will continue to teach yoga and mindfulness at the D.C. women’s jail.
While all of this change sometimes feels overwhelming, I remind myself of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s wisdom:
“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.”
The truth is that impermanence is the very definition of life, we are always free falling through it. And it’s also true that there is something permanent beyond the forms of life – it’s the underlying formlessness or suchness of life – the kindnesses, beauty, hugs, and love that you and I have shared in many different ways.
Danna Faulds so beautifully describes how our openness to impermanence offers us a glimpse of the permanence that lies beneath it, in her poem, “Here:
“… It’s here when I let go of the demand to make life smooth or easy. It’s here, the oneness underlying multiplicity, the exquisite ‘is-ness’ of everything. I could shout it from the rooftops, but it’s true no matter what I say, and I know you’ll find it in your own time, your own way, that precious moment when you choose to meet life exactly as it is.”
Right here. Right now.
Your June 2015 Mindfulness Blog is awesome, as they always are. I am so glad you have written a book on mindful eating. I look forward to reading it, and I’m sure it will be helpful to many of us. I can see you will be busy with many projects throughout the summer, but may I suggest, when you have taken a breather and are ready for more, that I’m sure many of us would look forward to your teaching a course on mindful relationships to food, based upon your book. Thank you, and good luck with all your upcoming impermanence this summer.
Dear Christine, thank you for your kind note. I would love to teach a mindful relationships to food class, and will plan one soon. I am taking a sabbatical from teaching next year and will be spending some time in India and France, so probably will be after I get back. I will post on my blog (www.rawmindfulness.com) as well as the Circle Yoga site when I schedule something. xo annie.
Hi Annie – I was in your Mindful Relationships class last fall, and have been meaning to tell you the story below, which I saved in an email I wrote to a friend at the time. Here it is…
Last night in my Mindful Relationships class, I was paired by chance with a young doctor named Neema. She is an in-hospital internist, and told a story of treating a 92 year old woman who is dying of symptoms that don’t organize as a disease or set of illnesses that can be named. Every day for a month or so Neema had been going to see her, spending 30 minutes talking to her about her symptoms and telling her this or that about the difficulty of diagnosing what’s wrong. Every day the woman would spend the time telling Neema the same complaint over and over again about how all ways her symptoms were a problem for her. Neema was hearing only her patient’s laments and complaints, and began to dread going to see her. Until she sat in the first class of mindful relationships.
After that first class, Neema went back to see the old woman, and, instead of reciting her usual litany of vitals and doctor-things, she decided to listen to what her patient had to say. She kept listening, and listening and listening. She learned that what was killing the woman was the fact that she could no longer care for her 91 year old husband, which had been her life’s work. Neema learned that while her husband kept saying, I will take care of you, they both knew he had no idea how to take care of himself much less her. Neema made time to listen to her husband too. She learned that he was really scared because he didn’t know what to do.
Now, when Neema visits with them, she says they are more at peace. Neema says she is becoming more invested in what it means to be human along with what it means to be a doctor.
In talking to Neema in class, I learned that instead of nagging Gary (my partner) about taking care of his diabetes, I can be more empathic about why that’s so hard for him.
Thank you, Annie, for sharing your self, your stories and what you are learning. We are all the richer for it. B2
Dear Barbara, thank you for your lovely story. It means a lot to hear it. In the mindful relationships class, I simply remind everyone of what you already know- how to really be there for other people and ourselves. Such a small thing, but it can change the world. xo annie.
Thanks for this beautiful peace. My father died peacefully on June 7 and I was there during his last days, some where he could interact and later as he slipped into a deep sleep state on his journey to the end of his time with us. My mindfulness practice helped me stay present for each of my own personal experience as well as that of various family members, as well as the medical staff and my father.
And now, as I feel tired, I am working to stay mindful, pace myself, and trust that I can walk through each day and heal. This offering of yours that I read today touches my heart.
Dear Susan.. thank you for your note. I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s passing, though it sounds like it was very peaceful and that you were able to be with him in a real way until the end. Sending you lots of love on your journey of healing. much love, annie.