Stumbling upon impermanence is something I experienced throughout my 20s, when I was clumsily navigating relationships, friendships, and spirituality.
Beginnings and endings felt all-consuming and my attachments to people and what I believed my life should be were strong.
I’m a mother now, so when I say stumbling, I mean that literally. I clean up a basket of toys and when I enter that same room minutes later, I stumble upon the same mess I picked up just moments ago. The piles of laundry alone leave me wondering how important clothing is in the grand scheme of things—surely we can all do with just seven shirts and pants. Right?
Impermanence. No condition lasts forever: clean living room or clean children.
I give them a snack and they are full…until they are not. One moment my child has me on the brink of madness and the next he says the funniest thing in his sweet, strange accent. Everything has a beginning and an end.
I meditated on impermanence for the better part of a year when I lived at the Maui Dharma Center. Anytime I would ask the resident teacher, Lama Gyltsen, for more teachings, to explain more—my spirit was very hungry—he would tell me to go back and read this 30-page handbook called The Four Thoughts that turn the mind to dharma.
“The second thought that turns the mind to Dharma is Death and Impermanence.”
This always turned me off and he obviously knew it. It continues:
“We begin by contemplating the impermanence of this precious opportunity as human beings by recognizing that this is not a lasting condition. Our bodies, as well as all other phenomena are impermanent.”
I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m not alone in not wanting to meditate on the idea that I’m going to die. But what I’ve learned is that the teaching is so much more than that. The point is to not get caught up in the illusions because everything has a beginning and an ending.
We’re in a great mood one moment and the next we are not. We’re in love and then we’re not.
It doesn’t pay to be attached to any of these ever-changing situations, moods, people, or ideas. That is where our suffering lies—in clinging to and grasping at the things we “love” and fighting against and pushing away the things we “hate.” Because in the end, none of it lasts.
This is not to say we can’t enjoy the happiness that comes with love, clean houses, and happy children, and it’s also not to say that we can’t have bad moods, messy houses, and children who drive us bananas.
What if instead of fighting our circumstances, we learned to embrace the wisdom of impermanence, relax into a state of “this too shall pass,” and just be okay with it?
What if we came from a place of equanimity instead of living in the highs and lows of attachment to joy and sorrow?
What the teaching says is true, and on the grand scale I know how truly blessed I am to have this precious gift of a human life where I am called to serve my family, my friends, and my community. The teaching is also true on a smaller scale, in that the living room will be messy then clean, the children will be fed then hungry, and they will be sweet then tyrants.
The key is to not keep stumbling over the dance of motherhood, but to instead find the rhythm of it.
Author: Korrin Rogers
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Lindsey Block