As I walked across the mottled clay tiles of the Alvord Desert, I was struck by the impermanence of everything. Thousands of years ago, the ground beneath me was submerged in two hundred feet of water. Geological change caused the then-lake to burst forth from its confines and fill rivers to the south. Today, the 140 square mile "playa" is dry half the year. During the season of my visit - when most of the five inches of average annual precipitation falls on the desert - water crept across the landscape like a mirage from the northeast. I stood alongside it and watched as it bubbled closer and closer to my feet. Slowly. Surely. In the words of the Buddha, Everything vanishes.
In yoga, there's a concept known as "releasing into." It's what we aim to do when we get into poses that are uncomfortable. We focus on breathing and "send the breath" to the places we feel tension and discomfort whilst trying to settle in beyond the resistance. We can apply this same concept to our lives.
My mom read this excerpt from the children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit at my grandma’s funeral: “Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you… You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
I can’t remember who told me this or where I read it, but I once encountered a concept that struck me, stayed with me, and has significantly impacted my thinking over the years: people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.