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Samsara gets us all down. One day can be glorious, feeling like we’re halfway to enlightenment, then the next it’s all doom and gloom and an effort to do anything again.

But it’s OK.

Funny that. Once it would have been evidence of some greater scheme, some piece of the puzzle that wasn’t fitting, that needed bashing and bashing to get into place. Or evidence that some part of life was not as it should be, and the whole shooting match needs to be dismantled and picked over carefully, before choosing utterly random events as a justification for misery.

The reality is it’s none of that, and all of it. It’s samsara. It’s just the way things are. Good stuff happens, bad stuff happens, that’s just the way it is. The sure fire way to get yourself dissapointed with life is to cling onto any of that stuff. We all know this intellectually but it doesn’t stop all of us from going round in an endless cycle of good/bad/good/bad etc. And if you take the term samsara literally, that goes on forever, for all your future lifetimes too (if you believe in reincarnation).

Thinking of life this way really helps me get a handle on the whole idea of impermanence. Crap day today? Never mind, it won’t last forever. That’s strangely comforting. I guess it’s a bit like the feeling a christian (muslim, jew, hindu etc.) gets when saying ‘well, it’s god’s will, i’ll put up with it’. It’s the whole idea of going outside of yourself in order to take refuge from the constant stream of shit that life can throw at you. I’m not sure people following other religions realise that this ability to take refuge exists in Buddhism – ‘It’s all about yourself, aren’t you lonely?’ is what they say (to me, anyway).

Realising that the way things are right now is not going to stay the same is massively liberating. It leaves us free to see the whole present moment for what it is – the good and the bad. Right now for me, I feel crappy – a bad head cold, a dull but demanding day at work, the prospect of a slow cycle home through some grey and damp weather, but I’ve got a hot cup of tea, my last patient has cancelled. I can enjoy all of these things without any single one dominating. I can see all of the possibilities that this moment contains – and chief amongst these is the possibility for the next one to be different.

I’m smiling now.

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2 Comments

  1. It’s all about balance, isn’t it? How can one appreciate the good things in life, if there is not something to compare them too? Contrast is important. I may not like, or want, sad times, but when they’re followed by good times (as they always are), it’s so much sweeter.

    To use a seasonal metaphor (because today it feels like we’ve had more than one already and it’s only just lunch time), i’d rather live in a place that has all four (admittedly, i’d rather have a quick, sharp winter, than a long damp one), than somewhere where it is permanantly hot and sunny. Rain is nice, sometimes.

    In my opinion being constantly happy is as equally unhealthy as being constantly sad. But then again, i’m not convinved that either of those states is possible (at least in a permanant sense).

  2. You’re right. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not and we’d be better off learning to cope with the ebb and flow rather than putting all of our energy into keeping things all good or all bad. It won’t work, and we’ll just end up dissapointed.


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