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Lions Roar : May 2018
We don’t like surprises either. We like to have everything under control, to force our lives to be predictable. But there’s no way to make things perfectly predictable, no real security. Security is a grand illusion. Paradoxically, our desire for security actually makes us insecure. It robs us of inner fulfillment, joy, and peace. It constricts us, closing our hearts so we can’t experience uncon- ditional love. We ’re so afraid of losing our lives that we never truly live. We allow our desire for security to become a prison. Embodied Attention To address this deep grasping, we can engage in a practice the Buddha taught called embodied attention. This is the practice of looking deeply into everything—without bias, without preconceived notions, without fear, without resistance. It is a way of simply paying attention to pure experience. When we inquire into the nature of our own embodied experience, into the nature of our bodies, minds, and emotions, the truth of impermanence is revealed. It becomes clear that there is no certainty, no permanence, only flow and change. This timeless truth pervades everything. We can wake up and realize—not just in our heads but in our hearts, in every cell of our bodies— that everything is transient, that everything is conditioned and impermanent, that there’s not one single condition we can hold onto, no matter how much we love or cherish it. That realiza- tion can help us to come out from underneath the burden of our fear, our ambition, our greed, our hatred. When we feel insecure, we are actually touching an impor- tant truth. The Buddha said, “There are many footprints, yet the footprints of the great elephant are the most supreme. There are many teachings, yet the teaching on impermanence is the best.” Of all Buddhist teachings, the teaching on impermanence is the truest. It is so true it’s not even a doctrine. It’s not a set of concepts developed by somebody a long time ago. The truth of impermanence does not belong to any one religion or tradition. It’s just how things are. There is not one thing in the universe that can be shown to last. A moment of insecurity is an opportunity, an invitation to let go and take refuge in the truth of impermanence. When we feel insecure, though, we tend to cling even tighter to our desire for permanence. When we do that, we squander the opportu- nity. By allowing ourselves to withdraw or contract in the face of insecurity, we miss the fullness of life. In our fear, we forget that a lack of security is not always a bad thing. Insecurity has two sides. One side is the truth of inevitable loss. This is the side we resist. But the other side is the truth of freedom and growth. We often overlook or forget this side of impermanence, but if we really think about it, we may see we don’t want to be stuck with any condition. We need change. A famous Sufi myth tells of a powerful but unhappy king who summoned a group of wise men and commanded them to create a ring that would relieve his misery and make him happy. After conferring together, the wise men presented the king with a ring inscribed with the phrase “This too shall pass.” When things are difficult, it can be helpful to remember the phrase “This too shall pass.” It serves as a reminder that imper- manence is the one thing we can truly rely on. In that sense, our insecurity is sacred, even wise. If we can remember that impermanence doesn’t only impact the good circumstances we’re attached to but also the unfavorable circumstances we struggle with, whatever we’re going through becomes much more bearable. We can see the seeds of sorrow’s demise, even as it unfolds. After many years on the Buddhist path, I find myself continually returning to this most liberating, most authentic reflection, which cuts through all illusions. It’s so egalitarian. Every human being, regardless of back- ground or beliefs, can engage with this reflection and experience amazing free- dom and unconditional joy. The message that “this too shall pass” The fire began as an illegal campfire in Garrapata State Park. These are before and after shots of a Buddha in the sanctuary garden. The fire destroyed fifty-seven homes and killed a bulldozer operator. This is some of the damage that Sweetwater Sanctuary sustained. PHOTOSCOURTESY:SWEETWATERSANCTUARYARCHIVE