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Erric Solomon

Meditation Really Is Contemplating Impermanence

Here is another tale from one of our friends down-under...


We all have friends we think we will keep for life.  Some of them we have known since we started at our first school.  But then, one day, we find the only thing holding us together is our history; we have grown apart and have different priorities, interests, beliefs, social groups.  What to do?


Recently an old friend came to stay with me.  I loved her then and I love her now, but we both found that we had very little to talk about.

How did I react?  In my mind, I blamed her for "changing".  Clearly it wasn't my fault, so I needed to make someone else wrong.  She was a sitting duck for my emotional reaction.  I didn’t want her to have changed, after all, I hadn’t.  Had I?  Well, maybe I had, a bit.  I’d grown up, that’s all.  If she had to change, why hadn’t she changed the same way I had, the right way?

I had to take a good, hard look at this.

I took a deep breath, sat quietly for a bit and thought about change.

We all change.  Without it, we would not exist.  If at some point we stop changing, we will die.  Each breath creates change, each movement is change, each nano-second we change.  Our cells are born, fire and die many times each day. If we were not to change, we would be stuck, as my Buddhist teacher says, "like this forever".  A statue.  Planet Earth, the cosmos, the universe; all are constantly changing.  It is the nature of our existence.  That which keeps this body alive will eventually kill it – change is a double-edged sword.

We all have different experiences too.  And everything we think, say and do affects us and those around us.  There is no way she could have changed the same way I had – we had completely different lives, different experiences, different ways of seeing the world.

By comparing our different journeys, I had made it all about her versus me – one good, the other bad.

By watching my breath and noticing the thoughts that were zipping around in my mind, I also realised that this adversarial life most of us live is based on a desire to protect our fragile egos.  This is the “them and us” mentality that His Holiness the Dalai Lama talks of in his new book “The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World” in which he is interviewed by Howard Cutler.

We don’t like change.  We only change when our life, either physically or mentally, is at stake.  We cling to the things we have decided we want, and reject those changes that bring things we have decided we don’t want.

But everything is going to change.  There is nothing stable in the world that we can cling to.  And since there is nothing we can do about change, let's make it our friend.  We can take every breath as an opportunity to be in touch with ourselves and the changes that are occurring in us.  If we sit and watch our breath, coming in, going out, and just stay with that for even a few minutes, we can learn much.

It is relaxing, it brings us back into our body, it makes us notice our posture, it brings us into the present moment which, after all, is the only moment we will ever have.  The last moment is gone, the next is not yet, and here we are, breathing in, breathing out, just being with ourselves, right here, right now.

So let’s just let go and allow change to happen.  Just “go with the flow” and stop trying to grasp and cling to thoughts, opinions, comparisons, stop even clinging to each moment as it passes.  When we cling to something it becomes stale and static and so do we.

William Blake said “he who kisses love as it flies, lives in eternity’s sunrise”.  A much better idea than clinging to whatever it is we desire but living in a setting sun world, unhappy and dissatisfied.

I rang my friend and told her I love her.  I thank her for letting me go through this journey of discovery.  It wouldn’t have happened without her visit.

Have you had any situations recently that have brought home the truth of impermanence? Did it help to remember that everything changes?

This post was written by Lynda Geppert who lives in Narooma on the far south coast of NSW; She has been a buddhist most of her life. She is a freelance writer and editor (mostly retired now) and spends most of her time running a small organisation called the Ta Yang Guardians created to support firstly a monastery, then also a nunnery, and now  helping  the entire small town of Vasser, in Golok, in Tibet.