Monday, May 6, 2013

All is Impermanent

One of my favourite Buddhist sayings is ‘all is impermanent’. It is one of those rare truths that covers the action of every atom in the multiverse, after all, everything is in constant flux and flow. Even the most permanent things we can think of are impermanent: one day the concrete we stand on will be rotten and ground to dust – even the planet we stand on will grow old and die, as will the sun that shines down upon us.

Similarly, we are also constantly in flux. Our cells die and are (sometimes) renewed, our glands release hormones, our brains release chemicals and fire electrical signals; yet we are completely unconscious of all the activity occurring in our bodies and minds.

Quite often changes that affect our lives can seem extraordinarily difficult to deal with, but when we look at the change affecting us in relation to impermanence, we realise that the change itself is natural. It is ourselves holding onto the past, wishing things would stay the same, which causes the difficulty.
 A few months ago my father was diagnosed with myeloma – bone marrow cancer. The natural reaction is to wish that life could go back to the way it was before the onset of the disease, but this kind of thinking only increases the feelings of helplessness and panic: “There is no going back! Things will never be the same again!”
Rationally I know that my father’s old age and disease are a natural part of life, and yet my attachment to him means I want him to always be healthy. This is when ‘all is impermanent’ becomes a helpful contemplation, to a degree, it becomes a comfort.
The pain and anguish felt at any time in life, is impermanent.
No matter how bad things get, it is impermanent. There will be happiness again in the future.
Of course for balance, it is important to remember that all is impermanent during the good times, as well as the bad, otherwise we fall straight back into clinging to the present or the past. 

Understanding that ‘all is impermanent’ allows us to realise our true nature, and that of the universe around us; and in that, we can find peace.
These ideas have developed during my learning about The Four Noble Truths.

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