During an NPR interview with Kiefer Sutherland (of television’s “24” fame) the conversation got around to how each day’s outcome is unpredictable: You wake up, set out to do this and that, expect to be here and there, meet this person and that, hope to accomplish ‘x’ number of things … and by nightfall, looking back at the day, how often can you say ‘I nailed that one perfectly’?
Rarely, if ever! We set out each day — and, for that matter, to each job, relationship, or project — with our best intentions, full of hope, a few fears, and an unspoken faith that all will go well. Much of the time we don’t have much of a plan, nothing more than an idea or expectation. Perfectly normal. And then things don’t quite work out, some end in disaster, others take turns we never expected or could have anticipated. That’s life, you say; dust yourself off and start over again.
Impermanence is a key teaching in Buddhism: nothing lasts, everything changes. What is “real” in this moment is this sound from the radio, this itch on my right shoulder, this view out the window, this uncertainty about how I’ll complete the sentence I’m typing right now … anything beyond that is a mystery.
“Impermanence is not a uniquely Buddhist insight,” writes Gil Fronsdal.
“Some spiritual traditions equate the world of impermanence with suffering. For these, the solution to suffering is to transcend the world of impermanence.
The Buddha approached suffering differently. He said that suffering is not inherent in the world of impermanence; suffering arises when we cling. When clinging disappears, impermanence no longer gives rise to suffering. The solution to suffering, then, is to end clinging, not to try to escape from the transient world.”
source: Fronsdal teaches at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA; image: lisaesposito.com.