Today I am writing about treasuring and valuing the impermanence of all things and people in life. Sometimes we can forget what treasures – whether large or small – we have in life and take things for granted. Worse still, we can spend time wishing that people could be different or that things could be better. Yes we should strive for what we want out of life, but we should also have gratitude for what we do have, particularly those things that we love or hold dear.
Lately I have come to dwell on the topic of impermanence. It is spoken about a lot in Buddhist teachings – the impermanence of all things. The topic is usually grouped with the idea of attachment, namely holding tightly to people, things or ideologies rather than recognising that from second to second, what we behold is always changing. We can put great emphasis on people or things being permanent. For example the saying, “A tiger never changes his/her stripes”. Whilst the essence of things can often hold strong, everything is nurturing, growing, or declining and dying. Even objects or landscapes like vast cliffs that seem steadfast are still always changing. They get weathered by the rain or the sea or ocean by which they stand. It’s just it all happens so minutely that we never seem to notice it all change.
So, things are changing all the time. The things and people we love are changing too and all are impermanent. Whilst it is hard not to become attached, we can all (whether wholly or less attached) do more to recognise the treasures within our lives and embrace them with gratitude. They won’t always be here and neither will we. To notice and respect the change and flow within each thing or person is a great way of being. To hold a deep gratitude for even the smallest of good in your life is important.
Earlier this week I ran some training sessions as part of World Mental Health Day. One question I asked was, ‘What three things make you feel good?’ I laughed at my own answers to these questions as a couple of things that came to mind in that particular moment included ‘fresh water’ and ‘exhaling’. These things seem so basic, but they are equally important to treasure. We can put too much weight behind others making us happy. Whilst we should appreciate those around us, let’s not forget the small things too. These are particularly important for those who feel isolated to recognise. There is always a helping hand somewhere. To some, it will not be obvious or perhaps few and far between (I particularly think here of those in poverty or oppression). It can be difficult in such circumstances to notice anything but pain. Luckily most of us aren’t in such situations. But think about those who go hungry every day. Those many grains of rice you may eat for dinner – you should be thankful for each of them. Somewhere in the world your normal dinner would be a feast to another person.
As for people, I once asked a Buddhist monk who was leading a silent retreat that I attended how to not become attached to impermanent things. My statement was something along the lines of, “How do you avoid attachment to impermanent things? I know it is not wise to become attached to that which is impermanent, because when it is/they are gone you suffer. But the more aware I am of the impermanence of my friends and family, the more I cling to them.” The question brought a smile and then a chuckle to the monk’s face and a few others on the retreat nodded at the predicament that can present itself in this Buddhist teaching. There is considerable focus on human suffering and its prevention or cessation in Buddhism, but even the monk admitted that it was incredibly difficult not to form attachments to people. His answer came more in the form of recognising and growing the awareness of the impermanence of others and the natural suffering that would follow should they leave or pass. Perhaps I inflected some meaning that he hadn’t intended, but it dawned on me that all we can do is treasure and have gratitude for our loved ones. We can recognise the truth that all things rise and decline, but that whatever time we have we should treasure.
It is one of the reasons I don’t like arguments and work hard to try to build levels of understanding and collaborative ways of working in both my professional and personal life. Life is too short to spend squabbling with your loved ones or wishing that what you have or ‘own’ was something more. We all have only this very time together. Many seconds, minutes and hours have already passed and no one knows how many more there are to come.
So I urge today and every day and every moment that we recognise that we’re not treasuring the things and people that we love to make sure we do treasure and have a deep sense of gratitude for them. To remember that we possess and own nothing, we are merely borrowing resources. Your forever home will perhaps one day be someone else’s forever home. You should look after it during your stay in this world. You should laugh and love with all the might that you can. Laugh and love each moment as if you might never laugh or love it again. Live with such fulfilment. Treasure your love.