Impermanence Is A Gift, Not A Loss
Three days ago I went home from my Quaker meeting and listened to the radio talking about an horrific motor accident that had just occurred on a crossroads I had just been down, which involved a fatality. Thirty minutes separated me from that accident. The fatality turned out to work at the hospital where I volunteer as a Quaker chaplain weekly, though I didn’t know her. Her loss is of course felt by many. There is also the shock of it all.
Two days ago, Monday, I, like many millions of others, watched, astonished, as the cathedral of Notre Dame burned. So many friends, including myself have memories of visiting this iconic global landmark. I spent the weekend with my french friend when she was studying in Paris about thirty five years ago and we ‘did the tourist’ Paris with Musee D’orsay and ND as the pinnacles of the weekend.
Today, Wednesday, a good friend died. We got the text around 8 a.m. this morning to say she had passed 10 minutes ago. Her husband is the lead singer with my husband’s band and he had cancelled this weekends two gigs for himself, knowing how sick his wife was. We had all accepted and the band were planning their accommodations, though he would be badly missed. He is a great lead singer and harmonica player, I mean really really good. He and David (my husband and lead guitar) often play off each other and it can be quite inspirational sometimes, but even just fun is good for a great night out.
His comment was — let’s play a blinder for Sue at the weekend.
They will and we shall all miss her but have a good dance in her honour too. How else to honour a friend than to continue to live fully?
She loved the band as I do, as all the wives did and do. Now we are down from four to two only though. Eighteen months ago they lost their bass player, Paul, to lung cancer, Sue’s cause of death also, and although we have a new and great bass player, Paul’s widow is no longer one of our throng of support /followers. Wags if you like, though we were all wives only. Her presence has already been missed and like Paul and Veronica’s, it will continue for some considerable time. Do you ever stop missing someone? it is just that the gaps get filled in, like they did with the great new bass player.
What is impermanence?
Someone asked me recently to explain the concept of impermanence.
This is what impermanence looks like, changes, losses and alterations, evolution of what is into what it will become.
A colleague in the chaplaincy team at the hospital today, with whom I shared my news, also said that at our age it happens more and more. Friends start to die off, and it brings one’s own mortality into sharp focus.
But death is not the only impermanence:
Every day is an example of impermanence, time — we can never go back.
This moment is a demonstration of impermanence, we can never reclaim it.
Every hair or skin cell we lose constantly is a sign of bodily impermanence.
Every meal we eat, drink we consume,
Every night we sleep, every hug we give, smile we share,
Every thought we think, word we speak, action we make.
They are all symbols of impermanence because they all arrive and are gone immediately we have them.
What we humans do is to close our minds to this reality and instead put in place defenses against this reality, bulwarks to protect our frail human minds from the reality of impermanence.
This is a form of voluntary self-entrapment, self-harm even, yet we all collude with everyone else to continue and perpetuate this tendency.
Today I am meditating on impermanence, accepting my own imminent decrepitude and mortality and accepting once more that in this moment I have everything I could possibly want.
Impermanence is a gift, not a loss.
Although the above list seems to be all losses and tragedy, the other side of it is that it shows us how important it is to seize the day,
to love with all of your heart as many people as you possibly can.
to do everything you dream of doing.
to value everything you have- no matter how humble or apparently insignificant it might seem.
to fight against injustices — they too are impermanent
to celebrate great art and beauty but to care for the menial and less obvious also
to be utterly grateful for each moment of the life you have no matter how hard it is or has been at times.
to recognise the gift in everything even though it is in disguise,
to embrace compassion gratitude and acceptance as your approach to life
to just thoroughly feel the living ecstasy of each moment by letting go of the fear of impermanence. You cannot change it, but you can learn and live better as a result of facing it fully.
It took me a few decades to fully realise and learn this value of the lesson of impermanence from a very difficult childhood surrounded by lack and fear. I spent everyday straining for the next one to be over so that I could be older and get away from it all. But in young adult hood, life held more lessons in store for me and I seemed to need to learn it from the bottom to the top. I can certainly state various forms of ME Too all over the place though I also know others have had it worse than me too.
I have been told by several different astrologers and mystic psychics that this was all intended for me to achieve my purpose in this life time and that is to show the way for others to take the same journey. I have a grand cross in my charts and I am here to confront and bring about change.
Great — thanks — but no thanks — really — you got the wrong person!
I have baulked at this suggestion again and again.
I don’t want that burden.
I am now happy in my life and with a great second husband and two lovely sons and my one and only grandson.
I just want to live my own life quietly.
So I defer to the Buddha.
I embrace his teachings on impermanence fully and whole-heartedly.
All I can do is to tell you and write my stories about my life, and show how they illustrate those teachings. You can read more about my story here and how I made that journey, and know that all the proceeds go to charities against slavery, and if you want to know more about that particular social mission of mine, you can read that here: