What My 8-Year-Old Nephew Taught Me About Impermanence

My nephew and I were at the beach this past weekend making sandcastles. Or rather, I should say, I was making sandcastles and he was destroying them. The sand felt wet and cool in my hands from all the rain we’d experienced during the week, and I was absorbed into the act of building. My mind was calm and centered. The sound of the waves, the feel of the sand, and the act of creating soothed my soul.

Every chance he could, my nephew would come along and destroy part of the sand castle. He was excited to tear down all I was building. He relished in the leveled mounds of sand beneath his body. I noticed myself become irritated because every time I would start over, he would want to destroy it. I found myself telling him to stop and wait until I was finished. I wanted to marvel in my creation. Sure enough though, every time I would add another layer, he would rip it down. And then I smiled and laughed in the joy he was experiencing playing on the beach with his aunt. It made me realize the impermanent nature of all things.

As humans, we have the tendency to hold or grasp onto life and experiences to combat the fear we feel when it all comes crashing down. I noticed the resistance rising within me each time he tore down what I was attempting to create. He was purely living in the moment and having fun. Build it up, destroy, build it again, destroy.

Life is a series of ebbs and flows. This experience with my nephew was beautiful because it reminded me that everything is temporary. Nothing is permanent. Even if he hadn’t destroyed my sandcastle, something or someone else would. This is what he taught me: in my moment of irritation, I could either hold onto this need to build the perfect sandcastle, or I could simply enjoy the moment. Spend quality time with him playing on the beach and watching his joy and delight of his destruction.

Yoga teaches us that everything is impermanent, and that the best way to navigate through the ebbs and flows is to remain steady and constant. Neutral detached awareness. This doesn’t mean that we cannot experience pleasure or feel pain and sorrow, but rather we remain the steady constant throughout both. Knowing that everything is temporary and will pass.

Oftentimes, we get caught up in the moment with stress, anxiety or depression. We grasp onto the notion that nothing will change. Or we fear change, and so we hold onto good experiences for as long as we can. In doing so, we are pulled away from the present moment. We miss the beauty that is all around us. Life is always changing; we’re always changing; things around us always change. We can either be like the steady stream and navigate the ebbs and flows with gratitude, humbly and ease, or fight against, resist and miss the gift of presence. The gift of seeing your 8-year-old nephew enjoying his vacation on the beach.

Notice the next time you find yourself resisting or holding onto something so dearly. Where can you let go, release and breathe into the present moment?