Last updated October, 2018.
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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, feelings, 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:
But, it can cause trepidation to realize that things we label "good" or "positive" aren't permanent, either.
This trepidation 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 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 recreate or replenish 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 that he refers to 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.
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