“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Today we are tapping into the wisdom found in this Greek philosophical quote from Heraclitus. It is the same wisdom shared throughout many philosophies around the world – the truth of impermanence. Nothing stays the same, and therefore every moment is fresh and new, and we ourselves are also new creatures day by day because we are also subject to the truth of impermanence.
We often look at impermanence in a negative sense. Things decay, things break, things die. That is part of what impermanence means but it isn’t the full meaning of it. Impermanence simply means everything changes over time. Growing stronger, learning new things, growing food from a little seed, and being born are also all forms of impermanence! Impermanence empowers positive change just as much as things we perceive as negative changes. It is thanks to impermanence everything happens. The universe doesn’t stand still.
The “river” that can be stepped in is this present moment. It is always a different, new moment that we have never experienced before and will never experience again. The human mind takes in these moments and reconstructs them, then simplifies them, and stores fragments of these moments in order to react in new ways to future events. Our memories are not true snapshots of past events – they are simply reconstructions based on how we perceived that moment. We use this process to learn new things and adapt to our environment but it isn’t a perfect system and there is much room for error in how we look at the world to begin with that has an effect on how we store that information. It is due to this methodology of the mind that we can develop bias, aversion, and other negative mindsets that clog our clear analytical ability.
At any given moment there is a new experience that has never happened before – both for us, and for anyone else. It is totally unique for each person or thing perceiving it. It has never happened before in that exact combination of circumstances and it will never happen again. This is both a relief for painful situations (they will always pass), and can also be a source of grieving if you cling to a moment that you don’t want to end (you can’t hold on to anything). This also means that you only have one chance to live that moment fully, and only one chance to utilize that moment for growth. It is important to make the best of each moment no matter how imperfect it may seem. There truly is only one chance. The moment will pass and it will be gone, and then replaced by a new moment.
Like that moment, you are a new you as well. Old cells are dying off and new cells replace them. You are learning from each experience and shaping the way you think. You are older in each moment and closer to death. Just as you are no longer the five year old version of yourself, you are also not the you of yesterday, or even five minutes ago. The previous versions of what you call “you” are long gone. Don’t grieve over this. This means you always have the potential to improve – to realise a greater version of you. You are not stuck, unchanging, or hopeless.
“Nothing endures but change.”
You have a new situation, and a new you to experience each situation in each new moment. Knowing this, you don’t have to be limited by your past actions. You can avoid old mistakes, and also make new mistakes which you can learn from if you apply their lessons appropriately. New opportunity is here in each and every moment. An opportunity that will only happen in that way, and by that perceiver ONE time. Likewise, the future doesn’t exist – only the present moment does. Don’t dwell on what might be and miss what IS. Fully embrace this present moment to reap it’s rewarding lessons and opportunities. You won’t have this one again.