“People do not suffer from impermanent phenomena. They suffer because they desire the impermanent to be permanent.”
The contemplation of impermanence of all phenomena is an excellent way to develop detachment. Buddha said that life is like watching a drop of dew on a leaf: when the sun rises, the drop dries and disappears as if it had never been there before. That is the true essence of all phenomena. They arise when the causes and conditions gather, they remain while supported and they naturally cease when they are no longer supported. If we look closely to how everything unfolds around us, including ourselves, we realize that the only permanence in the universe is the impermanence of everything.
The universe is flowing, ever changing. Therefore, when we realise that we cling to something, we must contemplate its impermanence and question ourselves, I cling to what? Even if we do not bear in mind the view of the emptiness of our existence and even if we see ourselves as independent of everything else, such a dualistic vision of the I and everything else, we can begin by contemplating that nothing is permanent and that, sooner or later, it will cease. So let’s observe thoughtfully to the reason we cling. We get attached because something, someone or a sensation is pleasant to us and makes us feel good, right?
We want to repeat this pleasant experience indeterminately, because it makes us feel happy. Notice, then, that even this feeling of happiness is ephemeral. Since it is unpleasant to lose pleasing experiences, we become afraid and we want to repeat them again and again, perpetuating unconsciously our unhappiness. Isn’t it crazy? We should stop and observe with mindfulness. If we become accustomed to this kind of observation, our vision of the world and of ourselves will change subtly, we will be freeing ourselves from the bounding chains, the clinging and we will be enjoying the events in the present moment, here and now, while they last, letting them go and allowing them to fade away until they become a simple memory.
It does not mean that we should simply set ourselves in the role of an observer. Events often have repercussions for our lives and we must learn from them, yet we mustn’t let ourselves be dragged by them, living in the past or projecting into a hypothetical future, since existence itself, like everything else, is impermanent. The future is only a mental projection, it doesn’t exist and we don’t know how it will manifest or happen. We only have one breathing cycle. When we exhale the air from our lungs, there is no certainty that we will inhale again. How precarious and impermanent life is!
But what about situations or feelings that are unpleasant to us? Attachment manifests itself in duality. We perplexingly cling to what displeases us in the same way that we cling to what gives us pleasure. When we live experiences that cause us displeasure or pain, we do everything not to repeat them. Of course, the result is the opposite, by doing this, we actually perpetuate our pain. The anguish of not wanting something is pure suffering, as much as wanting or desiring. In fact, when we speak of attachment, we must approach it in its integrity. We now understand that regarding attachment, there are two types of reaction: attraction and repulsion. Both are considered attachment- just as what gives us pleasure is ephemeral, so is what brings us dissatisfaction. Thus, similary, we must contemplate their impermanence and let the events flow until they eventually dissipate.