These "musings" are short articles on select topics. This one was last updated December, 2017. If you find it useful, learn about our online, self-paced program - Awareness-based therapy (ABT).
"Conditions are always changing, and real peace lies in the ability to adapt to these changes." - Mingyur Rinpoche
Impermanence is a fundamental truth.
You, me, the tree outside, the mountain that looks so large and stable - nothing lasts unchanging over time.
Impermanence also applies to thoughts, emotions, urges, and the rest of your mental activity. Your mind works hard to convince you all of it is permanent (and urgent!), but it isn't.
This can be liberating in the context of things we label "bad" or "negative." It helps put our suffering into perspective - the hard times will pass, the stress will abate, the anxiety won't last forever, the sadness will eventually subside.
But, it can cause trepidation to realize that things we label "good" or "positive" aren't permanent, either.
This trepidation (or, a failure to realize) leads to our lifelong search for happiness. It fuels our ongoing attempts to find the next object, relationship, experience, or mental state that will deliver it. Because we don't accept (or realize) impermanence, we create suffering in our lives as we attempt to cling to "the good things" and try to keep them from changing, or constantly try to replace them when they do change.
As Chade-Meng Tan says:
"The biggest problem with pleasant experiences is that they all eventually cease. The experience itself causes no sufferings, but our clinging on to them and our desperate hoping that they do not go away cause suffering."
This suffering is self-created. As such, we can stop it. More important to our well-being, we can replace it by using an understanding of impermanence to foster appreciation instead.
This shift from suffering to appreciation is reflected in the goblet story from the book "Thoughts Without a Thinker":
"You see this goblet?" asks Achaan Chaah, the Thai meditation master.
"For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, 'Of course.'
When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious."
Recognizing that nothing lasts forever teaches us to appreciate everything in the moment it exists, and appreciate each moment we have with it.
What if we told you the biggest problem in your life is that your mind is the biggest problem in your life, and you don’t realize it?
It is. But, our online, self-paced program can help you stop being a prisoner of thoughts, emotions, and urges.
Find out more about the ABT program here.
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