Impermanence and change can be fearsome concepts; not for their complexity, but for their raw inevitability, meaning — their truth. Who hasn’t wanted to cling to periods of calm, of the first flush of love, of existential stability? But change is nature. It is impersonal, without qualities of good nor bad. The only unnatural aspect is the perspective we bring to it.
With this in mind, light incense at one end of the room, let the smoke drift towards and open window at the other. You can sit comfortably in between or near the incense, just so long as you have a good vantage point to observe the smoke. Allow yourself thought as you watch the smoke slither toward toward open air like dragon’s breath. Notice it curl, flare, and ultimately, dissipate.
Smoke never takes just one shape, is never graspable. No two puffs of smoke are the same, and no puff retains its form for even a moment. It is constant change: from the incense to the flame to the smoke, and finally subsumed into air with a bit of ash. Impermanent, filled with sensation, yet insubstantial.
See the beauty in change, in impermanence. It’s a small beauty, but we are also only a small part of this infinite whole. Enjoy the smoke until the incense burns out.
Variation on smoke meditation: Light incense at one end of the room, let the smoke drift towards and open window. Allow yourself thought. Don’t try to stop it. Notice how the thought, like the smoke, forms then dissipates, is real but with no substance. Are thoughts smoke of the mind, churning in its ‘unborn consciousness’ as the Buddha calls it?
For more mindfulness exercises, look here.