We are like the spider.
We weave our life and then move along in it.
We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream.
This is true for the entire universe.
The Upanishads

There are few things as beautiful a reminder of impermanence as a Buddhist Mandala. The monks work dutifully for three weeks to create their wonder from sand–a picture that at the core represents the nature of God and of the self. Each grain of colored sand is placed with precision to create the circular image. And at the end of the three weeks, when the mandala is complete, the monks wipe the whole thing away. They don’t whip out their iPhones and snap a photo that will be posted on Facebook first. They simply wipe it all away and start from zero for the next mandala.

How do we as practitioners start from zero each and every time we step on the mat? More important, how do we start from zero with each breath we take. Make a list of all of the things you are–quickly, without stopping for one full minute write and write…a mother, an artist, a yogi, a father, a chemist, a cook. Your list could be pages long and still it would not be all that you are. We live with such small pictures of ourselves, a mere fragment of our complete nature, woven into a tight web of our making. And what becomes of us when even a piece of that web is broken? Who are we then? Do we still know ourselves when we must face a part of our self that is somewhat foreign or when one of our constructs dies off?

If we’re brave enough, the practice of yoga brings us face to face with our darkest selves, with our deepest suffering, and with our greatest joy and most profound sense of love and compassion. This is no small thing. We can choose to remain in our small container, living in a dream of reality, or we can practice living in a way that honors impermanence, deeply touching moment by moment reality.

Every mental construct we create is a fantasy, one devised by our impermanent thoughts. Sit down and breathe and notice the way that the inhalation ends to allow the exhalation to begin. Notice how much you love hanging around in headstand (or whatever your favorite pose is) for the first minute or so, but grow to detest it after say five minutes. Notice how each and every thought, each and every emotion has a beginning, grows to its peak, and then is gone, making room for the next and the next. There is nothing that is permanent, say the yogis, except the true deep nature of the Self that is unity itself. And that is not something we can even begin to comprehend until we allow ourselves to wake from our craftily constructed dreams of reality. Take a deep breath and wipe the mandala clean. There is great joy in knowing that you are not the small being you imagine yourself to be. Greater joy even in allowing yourself to wake and begin again from zero.