No human, nor any living thing, survives long under the eternal sky.
The most beautiful women, the most learned men,
even Mohammed, who heard Allah’s own voice,
all did wither and die. All is temporary.
The sky outlives everything. Even suffering.
-Bowa Johar, Balti poet
(excerpted from Three Cups of Tea)
There was a time when I would have found this passage quite depressing. Life is fleeting and we’re all going to die. Great. Some uplifting poem.
Today, I take great comfort in this poetry. We are a small part of a vast universe, and while our lives carry great import to ourselves and to those who love us, the eternal sky sees our trials and tribulations as part of the constant ebb and flow of existence; not as epic chapters in our biographies.
The peaks and valleys that, as one of my beloved college professors claimed indicate a life well-lived, may punctuate the chapters. But there are long intervals (long on the human scale, anyway) that bring us down from our peaks and climb us up out of our valleys. These moments of transition are where the real living occurs. This is where we have the opportunity to practice fully inhabiting our lives and fully embracing the one constant in the world…change.
It is our resistance to change that creates suffering. We grasp for what we want to have happen or what we want to possess, and we grip tightly to what we don’t want to lose. In doing so, we create suffering for ourselves by denying the impermanence of our world.
Even in times of seeming sameness, changes are occurring; small changes within our bodies and shifts within our planet. If we can remain awake and aware of this constant flux, we can soften a bit, loosen our grip and be comforted by the changes that take place. When we arrive at a valley–encounter a difficult time in our lives–perhaps we can be present with compassion and grace knowing it will not last forever. When we reach a peak, we can enjoy it with fervor knowing its preciousness.
In this transitional season–when most of us have turned back our clocks and the temperature, the light, the colors, the fragrance of the wind are all changing–we can notice how these changes manifest in us. Are you encountering resistance? Can you soften to the changes and ride the wave? If you love this season, enjoy it without fretting about its impending end. If you don’t prefer it, take comfort…this too shall pass.