What would life be like if we just simply accepted change and embraced impermanence? There are many people who say it is imperative for us to realize that “change” is the only constant in life if we wish to know peace within. When we try to control everything, we find everything controls us. This may be something to consider.
Recently, I watched a film called The Dhamma Brothers. It is a documentary about a group of prisoners at a maximum security prison who had the opportunity to experience Vipassana – a Buddhist practice of sitting and observing one’s own thoughts and sensations. While it is a method and teaching of the Buddha it is not a “religion” but a technique that reminds us of how we create our own suffering and how we respond to our sensations and thoughts in ways that induce suffering. It is a pathway to stop the chatter, observe the body and mind, and move toward greater understanding of equanimity, impermanence, and acceptance.
All things change. They come into being and they move out of being. All things are impermanent except the eternal – which is called by many names – God, Soul, Buddha Nature, the Unified Field, Oneness, Great Mystery, Love. Moving past our reactive or habitual patterns of response to change –especially unanticipated change – can be a skill that enhances the quality of our life and relationships. You probably have heard the Serenity Prayer, a pillar of many Twelve Step programs: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. This is a powerful prayer.
What struck me most was the end of the film when the inmates talked about how the practice had changed their lives.
- I can remain calm enough, long enough, in a given situation so that I can decide how I want to respond rather than just reacting out of my fear and anger.
- I realized that even though I will probably live the rest of my life in this prison I have a choice to create a good and peaceful environment to live in – even here.
- All I am doing is sitting with myself and observing my body and mind. Now I realize things change all the time, but I can sit quietly. Our teacher told us it is about having love, compassion, and forgiveness for ourselves in each changing moment. I think I am becoming a better person because of it.
- It has helped my relationship with my family. I can see how things really are and not how I want them to be. I can take responsibility for myself and recognize how I influence the people around me.
When I think about the comments made by the prisoners in the film I feel hopeful. I think they shared an experience we could all thrive in – a greater sense of personal responsibility, the ability to accept change and impermanence, the skill of peacefully observing our own emotions, and the willingness to practice patience, love, and gratitude….sounds like a glimpse of heaven to me.
Life is about allowing the full impact of happiness and pain to move through us in the moment but never holding onto either one…knowing each will come and pass in its own time….and we can support each other in this human process of unfolding – in the best and the worst of situations – just like the Dhamma brothers did.
The Mandala Center