As often as I talk about impermanence (anicca), I recently had a small revelation.
Focusing on the present, I tend not to look at the past very much. But in this case, I could see how much I have changed in the past year and was more than a little surprised at my personal evolution.
Please understand that these observances are not intended to influence anyone, only to reflect on my own path and gain more awareness of impermanence and the potential for every-changing growth that each of us possess.
Starting with the obvious, my body has aged. More wrinkles, more aches and pains, and certainly my memory is deteriorating. But more importantly, my practice has brought about huge changes in mindfulness and awareness. One example is my switch to a Vegan lifestyle. Living my entire life as a meat and cheese guy, I could never have imagined doing without those things in my life. But awareness led me to see that these are not things, not food, but living and feeling beings. These innocent, helpless creatures are tortured and killed for no reason at all except mans desire to eat them.
Now don’t stop reading here because you think I am about to evangelize a Vegan lifestyle. This is actually another thing that has changed for me. One of acceptance. It is not for me to tell anyone what to do or how to live. It is not for me to have expectations on another being, or delude myself into thinking I can change them. This is not right action, intention, or mindful.
This same acceptance and mindfulness is something that I am gaining in observing others faith or practice. It was not that long ago that I had powerful aversions to people on other paths. Questioning how they could believe what they believe or think the way they think. But I see now how this is all truly based in ego, and accomplishes nothing but separation, dogmas, and suffering for both of us.
I often think of the old expression “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and only annoys the pig”.
In addition to these changes, I have learned that all difficulties in my life are self-created. Any situation or circumstance that arises can be viewed in many ways. And it’s only when my mind chooses to control or manipulate reality that suffering arises. And as I often observe, it is usually a story that I create which allows this to take root. Every situation in our lives can be accepted lovingly, and be seen as a benefit if we choose to see it. And while I know this is a broad statement, and perhaps hard to accept, I see this to be true more and more in my own life. Again, I am always reminded of Bhante Sujatha’s teaching to accept, be mindful, and cultivate loving kindness. It’s really hard to go wrong with that process!
But perhaps the greatest change, and most powerful learning I have gained is the one in humility. I realize more than ever that I do not know anything. All of these little epiphanies I have had only enforce that fact that there is so much more I have yet to become aware of. I would never call myself a mindful person because I am aware that I am still missing so much. My words are not always mindful nor are they words that cultivate loving kindness and compassion. My actions are not always ones that are to the benefit of all living beings. And I have certainly learned that I am not in control of this body or its rapid decay. The changes continue.
I am so grateful for this practice, the teachings of the Buddha, and the Sangha of loving beings who constantly encourage me with compassion, acceptance and wisdom. I have come so far as to see that I know very little. But the World is my oyster. I have this moment, this breath, this day to live joyfully and lovingly. And that’s just perfect.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.