I was recently watching an episode of a popular ‘Netflix’ Political drama that depicted a group of Tibetan monks making a Mandala in the lobby of the White House.
The Mandala was beautiful and intricate; every grain of sand perfectly and thoughtfully placed by the monks. A simple, silent practice, allowing them to meditate and create something of wonder and beauty.
Once the Mandala was finished, a month later, a ceremony was held and the Mandala was swept away, without hesitation, into nothing more than a mass of coloured sand.
“Why on Earth would they spend all that time making something so beautiful just to throw it away?”
My husband asked.
All Buddhists, irrespective of our lineage, hold two truths dear; one is that of non-attachment, the other is that of impermanence (or Annica, as we refer to it in Buddhism.)
Nothing in this world is permanent. Everything is in a constant state of flux; change is inevitable. Therefore the symbolism of sweeping away something as beautiful as a Mandala, reminds us of that.
When we experience great happiness and pleasure, we are well to remember, that this is a fleeting emotion. Likewise, when we are suffering and in pain, it is comforting to know, this too will pass.
Sometimes we attempt to “Cling on” to those things that we perceive make us happy and content. However this kind of attachment is futile. The moment has passed; it will never be here again. It is a fallacy to believe that we might be able to recreate it.
If that is truly the case and happiness is fleeting, you may wonder why I entitled this post as The Gift of Impermanence?
Impermanence is a reminder to all of us that the only thing we truly have is the present moment.
It reminds us that we are living in the here and now and to be mindful of what we say and do. Often we ‘cruise’ control our way through life, not really ‘being’ or giving the moment our full attention. How many times have you been on a phone call to a loved one, whilst making the dinner, watching the TV or engaged in some other activity? Were you truly present?
The most important person is the one you are with right at that moment and they deserve your full attention, even if that means that attention is inward when you are alone.
I recently heard a story where an extremely wealthy and successful business man went for a normal health check up only to be told by the Doctor that he had contracted a rare blood disease and had 4 months to live. The patient and his family lived in Australia and had always wanted to travel around Europe. Within weeks of his diagnosis, he sold his business, purchased tickets to travel to Europe with his family and stay in some of the finest hotels. Then the Doctor called again; there had been an error at the laboratory. Blood samples had been incorrectly labeled. The Wealthy gentleman was in fact in perfect health.
Was he angry at receiving this news? Did he cancel his trip and return to work? Did he decide to sue the Doctor for malpractice? Absolutely not. Instead he now refers to the Doctor as his “Guru”, the one person who allowed him to realize the true importance of impermanence.
So wherever you are, whatever you are doing, make the most of the moment you have, as Eckhart Tolle once said,
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.”