“Life is but a day;
A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way
From a tree’s summit.”
“No permanence is ours; we are a wave
That flows to fit whatever form it finds”
“And so the spring buds burst, and so I gaze,
And so the blossoms fall, and so my days …”
Life is short, transient, even for those who might live for a hundred years. That is still a drop in the ocean of time. The Buddhist concept of Impermanence tells us that nothing endures forever, everything passes.
This is reassuring when times are difficult. During good times, although we know that these will not last, we are also aware that at some point, they will probably return.
The ephemeral nature of life means that there are losses, as well as gains. It means that places and houses and holidays we have had are now just memories, that there are blank, empty spaces where some people and things should be.
Many are still there in our lives, but they have changed, they are in flux, the people and the places that surround us. They are part of the circle of life.
We may wish that things would stay the same. We may desire a life of constancy and consistency, yet this is a fantasy, a dream that we will never attain. Accepting this is hard.
Twenty-first century society often offers us beguiling ways round the concept of change. A promise of youth recaptured. A turning back of the clock. We actually do not have to grow old! We can surgically alter our faces and bodies to fit in with some contemporary concept of what youth looks like.
Dr. Braun performs Botox Injections on a client at Vancouver Laser & Skin Care. Wikimedia Commons.
Yet, even with botox, lasers, face lifts, creams, lotions and potions, we will still grow old and we will still die. That is the one unchanging certainty in our lives.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses,
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
Seize the Day.
Living for now and in the present moment is an important aspect of Buddhist thought. Can we enjoy our lives, knowing that they will end?
Can we appreciate even the small things, the most fleeting of moments, whilst being aware that such moments do not return? They are lost in time, as one day we ourselves will be.
Can we really learn to appreciate what we have, to feel gratitude?
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
Staying in the Now. Appreciating the Present Moment.
It is exactly because there is nothing permanent in our lives, including our life itself, that we really need to enjoy what we have.
While we do have life, finding joy in each day is, if this is at all possible, a powerful goal, a way to value our experience. Perhaps we can practice deriving pleasure from small things. Can we find a moment to ‘stop and smell the roses?’ Can we pause and hear a medley of birdsong we normally might miss, to taste and savour our food, to gaze at the face of a sleeping child?
Equally, making the most of our own potential, developing our skills and continuing to learn at every opportunity, enable us to really benefit from what we’ve been given.
If we can grasp the idea that life is but a fleeting experience, then perhaps we will not delay or procrastinate as much.
Maybe there is less time than we think! This is not to be pessimistic, but to urge us to seize every opportunity, to live each day as if it were our last.
This is about truly experiencing the bounties that life has to offer, whenever and wherever possible:
Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.
I’m not sure about the instruction not to grieve; I feel that grieving is important. However, Rumi’s beliefs carry him through loss with the reassurance that there will be a compensatory return one day. What do you think?
“‘All conditioned things are impermanent’ — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” – The Buddha
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