Sunday, July 22, 2012


The transitory nature of existence is a core issue of our lives. Nothing is permanent and nothing lasts. How do we find happiness in a world of impermanence? It may require an adjustment in our thinking. The idea that anything will be static has to change. As the saying goes, the only constant is life is change!

How do we make this adjustment? We could practice paying attention. Whenever we find ourselves grasping or holding on to something, we could question what it is that we are holding onto. It could be a short term thing such as going to a movie, or on a date, or on a vacation. We may find ourselves looking forward to the event. Anticipating the upcoming situation. Then the situation comes and goes. Now it is in the past. We wish it could last forever. It never does. That is human. It is the way life works. Some people deal with this by always having something new to look forward to.

How do we as Zen students deal with this? We continue to return to this present moment. When on vacation, be on vacation. When at work, be at work. Never make where you want to be more important that where you are.

Isn't this nihilistic? Surely, vacation is better than work! No doubt about it. Given a choice, I would most likely be on the Big Island of Hawaii. Yet, I am sure we have all had fun moments at work and miserable moments on vacation. The point is we can't hold on to any of it. Ultimately, we see that life is a verb, not a noun. This, too, shall pass.

Does returning to this present moment, being fully present, really work to relieve suffering? Yes. In fact, this is the practice of meditation. With each breath, we come back to the present moment. Ultimately, we realize this moment is all there is. What else could there be? The past is a memory, which we continue to change. The future is an idea, a hope.

So what changes? Impermanence becomes an outmoded concept! All there is is this present moment.

I am sure this is a topic we will revisit. Here is a poem about the young me trying to hold on to a day at an amusement park.

Six Flags

When I was 6
  I would lay awake
  Having been told about
   Heaven and Hell
  I wondered if there
   were carrots in heaven
  I was scared
   Because if Heaven lasts forever
    I was gonna get bored
When I was 11
  I was upset because
   Everything was always over
  I would look forward to things
   But they would always pass
    and I couldn’t hold on to them
when I was 17
  I knew, someday,
   I was going to
    put on a robe
    put on some sandals
    paste on a beard
   And go sit on a mountain
    until I figured it all out
when I was 27
  I started
   reading zen books and sutras
   learning about don’t know mind
Looking back
  When I was 11
   I couldn’t wait to go to Six Flags
    to ride the roller coasters
     and water slides
   It was so much fun
    Funny, the things I remember most were
     how delicious the 5 cent root beer was
      on that hot summer day
     how well I slept on the bus
      during the ride home
    My 11 year old mind
     made the time at Six Flags
      better than the time
      spent elsewhere
     A lesson it has taken
      a long time to unlearn