Things are always changing

This post is inspired by a chapter from Jack Kornfield’s No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy Right Where You Are.

There is a river flowing very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. —Hopi blessing

Somehow, in the process of trying to deny that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life. We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things. —Pema Chodron

The Buddha taught that everything is impermanent—flowers, tables, mountains, political regimes, bodies, feelings, perceptions, and consciousness. Without impermanence, life could not be. —Thich Nhat Hanh

We cannot find anything that is permanent. Flowers decompose, but knowing this does not prevent us from loving flowers. In fact, we are able to love them more because we treasure them while they are still alive. If we learn to look at a flower so that impermanence is revealed to us, when it dies, we won’t suffer.

We think impermanence makes us suffer, but what makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent. Impermanence can teach us to respect and value every moment and all the precious things around us and inside of us. When we practice mindfulness of impermanence, we become more aware and more loving.

If we practice mindful living, when things change, we won’t have regrets. We can smile because we have done our best to enjoy every moment and to make others happy.

When you get into an argument with someone you love, close your eyes and visualize yourself 100 years from now. When you open your eyes, you will want to acknowledge how precious we all are. If we nourish our insight into impermanence every day, we will live more deeply, suffer less, and enjoy life more.

Come back to square one, just the minimum bare bones. Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time. That is the basic message. —Pema Chodron

Notice that each moment is different.
Every in-breath is a new moment.
Every out-breath is a new moment.
Our experience is a sequence of moments,
each one brief, each one rising and falling away.

How do you personally react to change?
Do you feel a resistance?
Are there things in your life that you are holding on to,
things that you want to be permanent?
Maybe stories about what has happened to you
things other people have done to you
how they have wronged you.
Stories that make others responsible
for your happiness or unhappiness?

What would happen if you allowed your stories to change
and view the people and situations in your life
with new eyes and an open heart?

Letting go of old stories
Letting go of old wounds
Being fully present now
Engaging with the next moment, whatever it is
Allowing change into our lives.

What would that be like?


Valentine’s Day sentiment

Many people believe that Valentine’s Day was dreamt up by businesses—like candy shops, jewelry and greeting card stores, florists, and restaurants—in order to make money.

But I believe that any day that makes us stop and think about the people who are important to us is a day worth honoring.

It was February a year or two ago, right around Valentine’s Day. I was listening to national public radio when a song came on. It was “Gandhi/Buddha,” composed by Cheryl Wheeler, and I had to stop and listen to every word.

Here are the chorus lyrics, which so perfectly communicate the gratitude I feel for the people in my life:

I must’ve been Gandhi or Buddha or someone like that,
I must’ve saved lives by the hundreds everywhere I went.
I must’ve brought rest to the restless,
fed the hungry too.
I must’ve done something great to get to have you.

May you have a happy Valentine’s Day, and may your life be full of people you care about.

The woman in the black hooded coat

She walks by my house year-round, rain or shine, wearing a long, black woolen coat usually with its hood up. She wears a backpack and carries a shopping bag and a duffel bag. She is pretty, with long blond hair, probably in her late 30s, and dressed usually in a skirt. She is always alone.

I hear her coming because she suddenly shouts words and sometimes phrases that I can hear through closed windows. Maybe she has Tourette Syndrome, or is responding to voices she hears?

If I’m down the street and walking toward her, she crosses the street. I’ve seen her sitting at a table at the library with all of her bags. When I try to make eye contact, she looks down and away.

Today, she was pacing back and forth in the library’s parking lot wearing her characteristic black coat and hood and incongruously holding a couple of shirts on hangers covered in plastic from the dry cleaner. I was sitting and waiting for the library to open when I noticed her duffel and shopping bags under the bench opposite me.

When she quickly walked by me to pick up her bags, I said, “Hello.” She did not look at me or speak. But as she passed, she moved her hand laterally toward me in what I believe was some kind of acknowledgment, but I’m not sure if it was positive or negative. Then she hurriedly picked up her bags and left. I impulsively called after her, “It’s okay,” but I’m not sure what I meant or if she heard me.

Seeing her so isolated makes me sad. I wonder how she navigates the world. I try to imagine her story, what her life is like, and what she is feeling. Maybe she wants to be left alone.

If the opportunity arises, I will most likely say “hello” again to cautiously acknowledge her while holding her right to privacy. It just seems worth it to me to try.

It is so easy to forget

It is so easy to forget
that the need to be right
closes the heart
and separates us.

It is so easy to forget
that the path to love
is taking a deep breath,
smiling, and extending a hand.

Why can’t we remember to
do what brings the connection we crave?