Everything in life is temporary—or at least, that’s what I’ve experienced as I grow older each year.
And some days, the fact that life is constantly changing is easier to accept than others.
However, there does not seem to be a way to avoid impermanence—and today, as I tried to grasp something that was no longer here, I felt like I fell flat on my face.
As I walked down the sidewalk, my legs became heavy, and all I wanted to do was lie down, throw my hands up in the air, flail my legs a bit and let out a long whine.
But apparently, now I am an adult…so I kept walking.
I took a deep breath, and I thought to myself, “Okay, what do we do when things fall apart—when life doesn’t work out exactly the way we want it to, or we are forced to go in a new, unexpected direction?”
Well, we keep going—but what else?
The times when I have most successfully (and easefully) moved forward with my life, I didn’t just use my own will. I relied on a collective bigger then me—I took refuge in the web of life.
In Buddhism, the basic foundation of practice is based on the concept of relying on three jewels of support. These are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. (The following are my interpretations of the long Buddhist tradition of taking refuge in the three jewels.)
The truth is, life is shaky for everyone—and even at the best of times, things are always falling away and changing. At the worst of times, it is like we are riding a mile-long mudslide on a day we forgot to wear pants (which is precisely when we may need a little help).
“Taking refuge” is the term Buddhists use to come back to the fundamental purpose and goodness of our lives—for we each crave something permanent and solid, and unfortunately, it cannot be found in our material world.
As we choose to take more risks in life, our experience will, at times, become increasingly shaky—so for those days, we can come back to these three jewels.
The Buddha represents “the one who is awakened,” so to find support here, we lean on a teacher who inspires us. We find something to help direct us, whether this be nature, spirituality, a mentor, a human teacher, a book or just something that challenges us to reach towards our higher goodness.
“Buddha nature” is said to reside in all things, which means each moment contains a reality of bliss and kindness somewhere in it, so find something that reminds us of this.
Dharma is a word that literally translates as “to be held.” It is the realization of reality, and when we see things as they truly are, we can sit peacefully in the arms of life—this is the teaching of the enlightened ones.
Dharma also means “to do our duty,” which in Buddhism is to awaken. So anything that helps us return to the present is Dharma. When we find faith here—and not somewhere in the future—Buddhists believe we achieve true peace. The way I work with the teaching of Dharma is through the use of meditation.
The third jewel in Buddhism is Sangha. This word means the community we practice our dharma in. It is a group of individuals who are also working to evolve and is a place where we can be reminded of the path we wish to follow.
Doing all the work ourselves gets tiring, we fall down, and sometimes we need a hand back up…our sangha is this hand.
Our community of support can be one person, an animal, or it can be a group that fills a whole room. Learning how to be with sangha means we understand we must make the effort to be vulnerable to others in order to connect. It is from a place of connection that we can again feel ourselves as a united front—we weren’t meant to do this alone.
It is a misrepresentation to think that in the future we will have everything figured out, or that our life will all of a sudden become stress free. However, there are certain things we can put into place to lean on on the days when we need a solid anchor.
At this time, we can find something that inspires us, something that brings us back to the present, and someone (or something) to remind us of who we are.
It’s okay to seek help when things get shaky.
If we do this, we might just discover that true refuge is quite near.
Author: Sarah Norrad
Image: Instagram @bethstuartyoga
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina