There once was a Thai monk named Ajahn Chah.
His students noticed that despite his teachings on impermanence and non-attachment, he had a favorite drinking glass.
“Someone asked Ajahn Chah something like, ‘You’ve been teaching us about impermanence and how everything is constantly changing. You’ve told us that being attached to anything in this transient world will always cause us to suffer. Yet it appears that even you, who has renounced all worldly possessions, have become attached to that special drinking glass.’
Ajahn Chah replied with something like, ‘It is true, I do enjoy this drinking glass. I like the way it holds my tea. I admire the way the sun shines off it, at times creating tiny rainbows. This is my favorite glass, but I do not cling to it, because to me this glass is already broken. I know that my time with it is temporary and precious. So I enjoy this glass while it lasts, but I am fully aware that eventually it will fall from the shelf or be knocked over and shatter. And when that happens I will say ‘of course.’”
This time of year, the physicality of autumn’s changes is impermanence smacking us in the face at every turn, but it’s still easy to forget in our day to day lives.
It’s an idea that sustains us and helps us hold on when things are difficult. It’s what makes us savor and soak up every second when things are beautiful. And one of the biggest creators of pain in this life is when we try to believe in something other than impermanence. We try to control things. We miss out on the moment because we’re worrying about when something different will happen. We look back at the past with either wistfulness or regret, and waste the precious energy we could be spending on now.
For today, if you catch your mind wandering to worry or wish yourself elsewhere, try this:
1. Close your eyes.
2. Listen to the noises around you.
3. Start at your toes, and work your way up your body noticing and naming every sensation, without labeling it “good” or “bad”.
4. Take 10 deep breaths in and out.
When I re-read my favorite books, I don’t enjoy them any less because I know how they will end. In the end of this story, all of the pain ends, all of the beauty ends, everything and everyone we love leaves in some way or another. So while you’re here, enjoy this part of the story.