Last weekend was a busy one for me. We celebrated two family birthdays and entertained the extended family. One of the gifts of children is the recurring joy of birthdays but it is also a time that marks the passing of the years. To notice how quickly a quarter of a century has passed! As we all grow older it is also a reminder that things change, nothing stays the same.
On Monday, I read the following story about Achaan Chah Subato, a Buddhist monk from Thailand.
“How can you be happy,” he was asked, “when you live in a world of such impermanence, where you cannot protect your loved ones from harm, illness or death?”
He held up a glass and replied:
“Someone gave me this glass, and I really like this glass. It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight. I touch it and it rings. One day the wind may blow it off my shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table. I know this glass is already broken, so I enjoy it incredibly”
The truth of this is that we only we have this moment. We cannot rely on everything to stay the same, however much we love it. Change involves loss. In the sadness of loss, we often try to cling on to that which we love.
And yet in this clinging we can miss the joy of the present moment. If we live as though the glass is already broken we recognise we only have this precious space in time. This awareness helps us to make the most of “now”. We notice the great value of a person, a place, or even a thing – such as a favourite glass or coffee cup. We take joy in the smallest of things and in this way notice how rich we really are. We enjoy life incredibly.
It is so easy to put life on hold. To think that we’ll enjoy life when the children have grown up, when we’ve paid the mortgage, when we’re retired. Yet the very impermanence of life is a reminder to live now, to make the most of what we have now.
It brings peace to notice, really notice, the uniqueness of each moment. It is when we really take notice that we make memories. The more we layer our brain with the experience of this moment – the sounds, the sights, the smells, the sensations – the more likely we are to remember it. It is ironic that by trying to cling to the past we are less likely to remember it in the future.
Our experience of life may or may not bring us suffering. We don’t know. But if we cling onto the old, we miss the joy of the new. In regret and reminiscence we do not recognise rebirth and spring. I will always remember feeling sad when one of my children was finishing primary school and attempting to sympathise with a neighbour who had a similar age son.
“Oh, I don’t feel sad”, she replied, “It’s exciting to see him move onto the next stage”.
It is exciting to see a world of possibilities. If we open our hearts to the new we are able to live more fully and more joyfully now.
I spoke about this subject on my video this week. If you're reading this on email and can't view the video you can find it on my website www.thegoodenoughmum.com