I recently returned from a Vipassana course, which is an ancient Buddhist meditation practice, preserved by monks for millennia and brought into the modern world.
10 days of noble silence – no talking, no eye contact, no phones, not even a pen and paper.
10 hours of meditation a day, sitting upright from 4.30am to 9pm (with a few breaks in between). Enough time for the mental chatter to diminish and the ripples on the mind’s watery surface to calm.
It’s difficult to pin down what the hardest thing about this experience was – the early rises, the back pain, the repeated attempts to reel in the drifting mind, the lack of social contact, perhaps being unable to listen to my favourite music.
But all the difficulties pale in comparison to the treasures I took away. Of all the things I discovered, I would like simply to mention the concept of Anicca, or Impermanance.
Everything is changing. I am changing. You are changing. The world, for sure, is changing. All physical matter and all forms of consciousness are in constant transition, a state of flux. And this is no new philosophy. To paraphrase Heraclitus, the only constant is change!
So what’s so important about this?
When we can embrace the notion of change, then we can alleviate our suffering. When we attach ourselves and our sense of identity or personal worth to objects, people, or circumstances beyond ourselves, then we are doomed to suffer. We must realise that everything changes from one state to another. What we once valued ceases to exist moments later. All things arise to pass away, over and over and over again.
At the surface level, this might seem like a nihilistic viewpoint. However, when we dig a little deeper, we can see how embracing change can actually liberate us, enable us to live in the present more deeply, to experience everything that life has to offer by understanding that each moment is precious, fleeting, and unique. When we uncouple our sense of happiness from that which is always changing we can become the unbiased observer.
So remember, that attachments lead to suffering. Understanding impermanence at the experiential level will lead to liberation, real peace, and real happiness.
Stay present. Do some yoga. Meditate. Be grateful. Breathe it all in.