Thursday Evening Online Program
April 28, 2022, 7:00 to 8:45 pm Eastern Time
Dear Still Water Friends,
As I look at my backyard today I am very aware of the reality of impermanence. The hints of spring from a few weeks ago have become vibrant realities. Pansies bloom in deep purple and bright yellow; the pink blossoms on my redbud tree and my first fuchsia clematis are all living examples of the reality of change.
I am also aware of changes in my personal life. Six months ago I reconnected with my high school/college sweetheart after not seeing him for fifty years. We are growing our new relationship as we travel frequently between Maryland and Texas. These changes in my life also affect my children, grandchildren, and close friends as they adjust to a new person in the family group and my time away from home.
Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) encourages us to contemplate impermanence, not as simply an idea, but as a reality in our lives. He writes in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching:
When we study impermanence, we have to ask, “Is there anything in this teaching that has to do with my daily life, my daily difficulties, my suffering?” If we see impermanence as merely a philosophy, it is not the Buddha’s teaching. Every time we look or listen, the object of our perception can reveal to us the nature of impermanence. We have to nourish our insight into impermanence all day long.
As I work with this time of transition and change, many challenging emotions arise. I feel fear and anxiety when I consider not being immediately available to my loved ones. I also feel excitement and joy about the connection I am experiencing with my new partner. These strong emotions need my attention. Over the past months I notice that I need to take special care of myself and my emotions. This requires space and time. I am thankful that my mindfulness practice and my breath are the anchors to keep me safe.
Thay encourages us (in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching) to understand impermanence deeply:
Understanding impermanence can give us confidence, peace, and joy. Impermanence does not necessarily lead to suffering. Without impermanence, life could not be. Without impermanence, your daughter could not grow up into a beautiful young lady. Without impermanence, oppressive political regimes would never change. We think impermanence makes us suffer. The Buddha gave the example of a dog that was hit by a stone and got angry at the stone. It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.
I am very aware of my aversion to change even when I believe the change is desirable. It is difficult for me to move into unknown territory and not be in control.
In my new relationship, my practice is to notice the changes in my body and my emotions as they occur and allow myself to just be with them. Noticing the impermanence and being with it — letting go of my habit energy of wanting to fix everything, whether it needs fixing or not. Noticing and just being with the changes allow space for my growth and transformation. With deep looking and insight, I will know what I need to do and not do.
This Thursday evening we will begin our Dharma sharing with these questions:
- What helps you move through changes in your life?
- What makes it more difficult?
- How does mindfulness practice help?
A related excerpt on impermanence in everyday life by Thay is below.
With a deep bow,
Looking Deeply Can Become a Way of Life
from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh
Looking deeply can become a way of life. We can practice conscious breathing to help us be in touch with things and to look deeply at their impermanent nature. This practice will keep us from complaining that everything is impermanent and therefore not worth living for. Impermanence is what makes transformation possible. We should learn to say, “Long live impermanence.” Thanks to impermanence, we can change suffering into joy.
If we practice the art of mindful living, when things change, we won’t have any regrets. We can smile, because we have done our best to enjoy every moment of our life and to make others happy. When you get into an argument with someone you love, please close your eyes and visualize yourselves three hundred years from now. When you open your eyes, you will only want to take each other in your arms and acknowledge how precious each of you is. The teaching of impermanence helps us appreciate fully what is there, without attachment or forgetfulness.
We have to nourish our insight into impermanence every day. If we do, we will live more deeply, suffer less, and enjoy life much more. Living deeply, we will touch the foundation of reality, nirvana, the world of no-birth and no-death. Touching impermanence deeply, we touch the world beyond permanence and impermanence. We touch the ground of being and see that which we have called being and nonbeing are just notions. Nothing is ever lost. Nothing is ever gained.
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