Friday, July 9, 2010


There is a basic Buddhist teaching that all things have three characteristics (known as the Three Marks of Existence). These are impermanence, dissatisfaction, and lack of a separate self.

Impermanence is the easiest of the three to demonstrate, but one of the hardest to come to grips with. We find impermanence and change everywhere around us. Pema Chödrön, who I have been reading and has been a great influence on me, points out that "People have no respect for impermanence. We take no delight in it; in fact we despair of it. We regard it as pain. We try to resist it by making things that will last--forever, we say--things that we don't have to wash, things that we don't have to iron. Somehow, in the process of denying that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life. We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things."

Of course, the alternative is to embrace impermanence, to embrace change. Yep, go with the flow. People talk about doing it all the time, but it ain't easy. But what if we could? Pema's suggestion: "Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, ... not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time..." Imagine that. Relaxing with impermanence. Relaxing with change. Relaxing with chaos. (I almost entitled this post 'Relaxing with chaos.') Learning to be fine with the fact that there is nothing permanent and everything is changing all around us. (I keep hearing the Jefferson Airplane lyric, taken from science fiction author John Wyndham, "Life is change, How it differs from the rocks...") The question is, can we relax with chaos, impermanence, and change? It's going to be there anyway. The only thing in question is our response.

I see this post as a continuation of my last post, on 'Collapse'. I'll let you connect the dots.

Quote of the Day: "Impermanence is the goodness of reality. Just as the four seasons are in continual flux, winter changing to spring to summer to autumn; just as day becomes night, light becoming dark becoming light again--in the same way, everything is constantly evolving. Impermanence is the essence of everything. It is babies becoming children, then teenager, then adults, then old people, and somewhere along the way dropping dead. ...
"Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don't struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality. Many cultures celebrate this connectedness. There are ceremonies marking all the transitions of life from birth to death, as well as meetings and partings, going into battle, losing the battle, and winning the battle. We too could acknowledge, respect, and celebrate impermanence." - Pema Chödrön

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