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Thread: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

  1. #1

    Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Hi everyone

    Finally had a chance to sit down and type my first post...sorry 2nd (1st was saying hello!).

    I have been sitting for 6 months now and although Its now a part of my life which I am thankful for, it has made me very aware of change and impermanence, which is a bit of a shock to the system. There is no stable ground. I can honestly say prior to zazen I new things changed, my daughter is growing, friends suddenly split up, my hair loss! etc but zazen has brought an awareness of just how profound this is and although I am glad to know this, it is also quite scary at times as the scale at which change is happening or my awareness of it and how fundamentally I am a part of this and not separate from it seems to have increased tenfold!! Its as if somebody has opened the net curtians that I didn't even know were there and i can now see a sharper more detailed landscape than before and in every crack and cranny things are constantly in flux. (maybe i just subconsciously ignored it previously, i dont know).

    I was wondering what other peoples experiences of this have been like?



    Kind Regard and gassho

    John

  2. #2

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    My experience is that the more iaccept this impermanence and there is nothing I can do to avoid death there is apeace that is actually right here for all to share. This doesn't mean that everything is always peaceful

  3. #3
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Welcome to the show, dude. Just sit zazen and take it all in. I think we all go through a phase of "Whoa" for a while, but things slow down and you begin to take it all in. It's like a great concert, only it's your life, and all of life as part of your life, is the "show." You've got a front row seat, now just use it.

  4. #4

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Well I don't normally respond to newbies with less than 10 posts. just kidding :mrgreen: Welcome.

    I know what you mean. I noticed after about a year of sitting, I suddenly felt this overwhelming fear. I was in an intense project at work, and I was very afraid of failure. I've been in intense projects before, but I think zazen really made me focus on what's going on with me instead of trying to run away from it with distractions, which I guess are healthy too from time to time.

    In any case that fear was so great, I actually feared sitting for a time. It's like zazen can be this laser which just strips you of things, and there you are with just yourself. We're always there with ourselves, but when our minds are not quieted, it's easy not to notice.

    I'm with you with the hair loss too. I almost have none on top now; at 22, I had a beautiful head of hair, but now I'm rockin' the picard at 35! i just need to get whiter in the hair dept (and get an english accent) to complete the ensemble. hahahaha

    Risho

  5. #5

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    My experience is that the more iaccept this impermanence and there is nothing I can do to avoid death there is apeace that is actually right here for all to share. This doesn't mean that everything is always peaceful
    Nicely put, Rich.

    Yes, jumping into the flowing stream can be a bit startling sometimes (even if you were there all along and just did not know so). Perhaps you might just drop all thoughts of "change" vs. "no change" ... and just have a good swim.

    How amazing that even flowing water can hold us up if one just relaxes and lets it all happen. Panic, and one might sink like a stone.

    Go with the flow. Sometimes, just be the flowing flowing!

    Gassho, J

  6. #6

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    If I may chime in,
    My biggest experience with impermanence came during one of the early anatomy labs a few months ago – the fact that I'm dissecting something that was a living, breathing human being didn't necessarily sink in until one late evening when I straightened my back, looked over, and thought “….this was someone’s grandmother.” Did she have grandchildren coming to visit her on a weekend not long ago? Did her life pass by in the blink of an eye? Did she like to laugh? How soon before I am no different from the cadavers we’re working on?

    This became especially poignant when I saw my father over Skype for the first time in years, and realized that somewhere along the way he started losing hair, getting wrinkles and wearing thicker glasses (whereas I pretty much remembered him as My Young Dad). There was a moment of shellshock both times, but making peace with these things seems to somehow add a little bit of beauty to the little bit of sadness.

  7. #7

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Thanks for starting this discussion, and welcome, John!

    I think that you've directly and honestly hit a nail on the head for those of us who are settling into this practice for real. No more "cool... flux... change..." distance; it's all very immediate and intimate as this stuff rises up.

    I'd be lying if I said that I don't have those same fears. I was at the beach last week having been working on the Mu koan, looked out at the waves, and instead of pondering being a droplet, the big ocean, all that happy beach stuff, I thought, "Egad: so if all this 'me' washes away, what's left?!?" Good thing I wasn't swimming or I'd have sucked down a lot of seawater, grasping like a fool at the air....

    But what the more veteran practitioners have posted seems to be right. There are other moments where those same thoughts rise up -- or when I look, really look, into the face of my mother; or when I recall some anger that had gripped me the day before -- when impermanence feels like an embrace of something very true and very real. Hard to articulate, probably ineffable, but surely a comfort, not a terror.

    I try to keep the Sandokai in mind at these moments:

    Light is also darkness,
    But do not think of it as darkness.

    Darkness is light;
    Do not see it as light.

    Light and darkness are not one, not two
    Like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.

  8. #8

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Oh, I had a link to share prompted by Echo's post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Echo
    If I may chime in,
    My biggest experience with impermanence came during one of the early anatomy labs a few months ago – the fact that I'm dissecting something that was a living, breathing human being didn't necessarily sink in until one late evening when I straightened my back, looked over, and thought “….this was someone’s grandmother.” Did she have grandchildren coming to visit her on a weekend not long ago? Did her life pass by in the blink of an eye? Did she like to laugh? How soon before I am no different from the cadavers we’re working on?
    Echo, you might find "corpse practice" worth reading about. I learned a tiny bit about it at this blog post. As someone who did a ton of research into the history of medical photography years ago (and saw a lot of extremely graphic photos of impermanent bodies), I can attest to the power of confronting the corporeality of provisional beings such as us, grisly though it may be!

  9. #9

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Rafaels tears & joy must belong here too ...


    viewtopic.php?p=58226#p58226


    Gassho, J

  10. #10
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA
    Oh, I had a link to share prompted by Echo's post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Echo
    If I may chime in,
    My biggest experience with impermanence came during one of the early anatomy labs a few months ago – the fact that I'm dissecting something that was a living, breathing human being didn't necessarily sink in until one late evening when I straightened my back, looked over, and thought “….this was someone’s grandmother.” Did she have grandchildren coming to visit her on a weekend not long ago? Did her life pass by in the blink of an eye? Did she like to laugh? How soon before I am no different from the cadavers we’re working on?
    Echo, you might find "corpse practice" worth reading about. I learned a tiny bit about it at this blog post. As someone who did a ton of research into the history of medical photography years ago (and saw a lot of extremely graphic photos of impermanent bodies), I can attest to the power of confronting the corporeality of provisional beings such as us, grisly though it may be!
    Ralph Waldo Emerson lost his first wife Ellen at a very young age; they had only been married less than 2 years, and she was only 20. A bit more than a year later, he opened her casket, writing, "I visited Ellen's tomb & opened the coffin." Apparently this was not uncommon in the 19th century. Later, his second wife, Lidian, would open the casket of their son, Waldo, who died of scarlatina, a couple of years after the boy's death.

    Emerson never wrote extensively about this, but his philosophy was strongly imbued with the idea of living in the present.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Kirk wrote:
    Ralph Waldo Emerson lost his first wife Ellen at a very young age; they had only been married less than 2 years, and she was only 20. A bit more than a year later, he opened her casket, writing, "I visited Ellen's tomb & opened the coffin." Apparently this was not uncommon in the 19th century. Later, his second wife, Lidian, would open the casket of their son, Waldo, who died of scarlatina, a couple of years after the boy's death.
    Thanks for sharing this Kirk. I had never read this about Emerson before. Very interesting!

    Gassho,
    John

  12. #12

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Thank you, Chris and Kirk! Certainly given me something to think about - and I hope to revisit some of Emerson's writing in the near future.

  13. #13

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Attachment, one of the many roads of suffering. I had one experience that opened my eyes to what I wasn't seeing and was worried about how things would change or how they could change. While my study of Buddhism has taugth me to "let go, let be", I found myself in the state of anxiety.

    To make a long story short, I eventually opened up a Japanese martial arts dojo teaching various traditions right near my house, subletting from an associate for a very low cost. As the dojo grew and I gained more students I thought, I hope this never ends. Then I thought, what if the school owner goes out of business; what if he moves; I dont want anything to change.....anxiety sets in. Teaching and practicing are a love of mine and the situation was ideal. I became attached to zen and my practice. Losing the possibility of keeping things going was very upsetting.

    Eventually, my worst fears were realized and the owner moved. My feeling of loss and anxiety set in, "what am I going to do with everyone and our school. I remembered "Let go let be." My anxiety washed away, change is inevitable and nothing is permanent. Things are still somewhat up in the air, but there is a new owner who seems to have honered the previous agreement. With change comes other opportunities.

    Gassho,

    Matt

  14. #14

    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    Iv just been struck by attachment, suffering and impermanence in one fell swoop! Wrote a fairly long reply on my smartphone only to press the wrong button and it's all just vanished! I'll have to come back to this tomorrow if I get time but thanks for all the replies they've all helped me look at impermenace and how we deal with it in our own way.

    Matt, iv experimeced a similar scenario with my small business and still am! I'm coming to the realisation (rightly or wrongly, I don't know) the anxiety about and the everyday instability of work are the same thing. My zazen seems to help no end here, I kind of experience calm anxiety at times, worry and insecurity is happening in my mind and the pit of my stomach simultaneously with a calm realisation that this is it and acting from there. It will all change again tomorrow though no doubt!

    Gassho

    John

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Personal experiences of impermenance and change

    It took me several years to understand that things are impermanent. Sure I had read it all in books and by sitting I was sure that when the time came I was going to be ready to face reality.

    And the day came where I found myself with no home, no money, no way of getting a new job and no family. Yup I had lost it all. Impermanence hit me with nukes that day. And if it wasn't for my sister, I wouldn't be telling you this.

    Despite that it was all too hard to bare, I begun to work up again, but with a rebuilt mind frame. I won't bore you with details, I will just say that I followed the dharma as close I as I could and it's worked fine so far.

    Last year my grand mother died. Great lady and it was a huge loss in my life. But somehow I managed to keep it together and took things as they were. I accepted her death and moved on. I know it sounds cold, but somehow that's how I reacted.

    So yeah, impermanence can be pretty harsh.

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