Stumbling upon impermanence is something I experienced throughout my 20's when I was clumsily navigating relationships, friendships, and spirituality. Beginnings and endings felt all-consuming, and my attachments to people and ideals around what my life should be were very strong. Now, as I mother and I say stumbling, I mean that literally. I have cleaned up a basket of toys to leave the room for a minute and stumble upon the same mess that was just picked up moments ago. The piles of laundry alone leave me wondering how important clothing is in the grand scheme of things... surely we can all do with just seven shirts and pants. Impermanence. No condition lasts forever...clean living room, clean dishes, give them a snack they are full then they are not. One moment my child has me on the brink of madness, and in the next, he says the funniest thing with his sweet, strange accent.
Everything has a beginning and an end. I meditated on impermanence for the better part of a year when I lived at the Maui Dharma Center. Anytime I would ask the resident Lama, Lama Gyltsen, for more teachings, to explain more, my spirit was very hungry. He would tell me to go back and read this 30-page handbook called The Four Thoughts that turn the mind to Dharma. "The second thought that turns the mind to Dharma is Death and Impermanence" This always turned me off, and he obviously knew it. It states, "We begin by contemplating the impermanence of this precious opportunity as human beings by recognizing that this is not a lasting condition. Our bodies and all other phenomena are impermanent" I'm going to go out on a limb and say I'm not alone in not wanting to meditate on the idea that I'm going to die.
The teaching is so much more than that, though. The point is not to get caught up in the illusions because everything has a beginning and an ending. We're in a great mood one moment and the next we are not. We're in love, and then we're not. It doesn't pay to be so attached to any of these ever-changing situations, moods, people, etc. Because there in that is where our suffering lies. Clinging and grasping at the things we "love" and fighting against and pushing away that which we "hate" Because, in the end, none of it lasts forever. Not to say we can't enjoy the happiness that comes with love, clean houses, and happy children and not to say that we can't have bad moods, messy children and children that drive us bananas. What if we embraced the freedom of knowing and embracing the wisdom of impermanence and relaxing into a state of this too shall pass and being ok with it? What if we came from a place of equanimity vs. living in the highs and lows of attachment to joy and sorrow? What the teaching says is true, and on the grand scale, I know how truly blessed I am to have this precious gift of a human life where I am called to serve my family, friends, and community. The teaching is also true on a smaller scale that the living room will be a mess then be picked up, the children will be fed then be hungry, they will be sweet then tyrants. The key is not to keep tripping over the whole dance of motherhood but to find the rhythm of it.