I may not like it. I may resist it. I may fight against it. I may get angry and grumpy. But nothing I do can change the reality that the forms in which my life manifest are constantly changing.

The Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron suggests that change is difficult because we long for security and seek to find security in the illusion that we can establish some unchanging external form. Chodron writes,

We know that all is impermanent; we know that everything wears out. Although we can buy this truth intellectually, emotionally we have a deep-rooted aversion to it. We want permanence; we expect permanence. Our natural tendency is to seek security; we believe we can find it. We experience impermanence at the everyday level as frustration. We use our daily activity as a shield against the fundamental ambiguity of our situation, expending tremendous energy trying to ward off impermanence and death.

— Pema Chödrön, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion (pp. 27-28)

In the face of the fact that I cannot avoid impermanence I need to face two important questions:

  1. Confronted by the ubiquity of change, how do I choose to respond?
  2. In face of the inevitability of change in all the forms in which life manifests, can I identify and connect with a reality that does not change?

If I resist the unavoidable reality of change in an attempt to establish an illusion of security, I cause suffering for myself and for others. If instead I open and soften, embracing the “ambiguity” of my situation, the inevitability of change becomes a path of transformation.

The impermanence of form is a gift. It provides endless opportunity to practice the fundamental life-skill of letting go in preparation for the final letting go when my body dies.

But, the practice of surrender is not merely preparation for physical death. It is also the means by which we begin to discover in this transitory material realm a reality that transcends change. Letting go is the gateway to the experience of a dimension of life that is permanent and unchanging.

Paul wrote,

we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.(2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

“Clay jars” are the forms in which life manifests.  “Clay jars” are wasting away. But, the “clay jar” exists to carry that formless eternal reality Paul calls “treasure” or “the life of Jesus.”

To the degree that I cling to the “clay jar” I lose consciousness of “the life of Jesus” that is eternal and indestructible. To the degree that I am able to release my grip on “clay jars” (“always carrying in the body the death of Jesus”), I become aware of an “extraordinary power” that is “made visible in” my body. This is the power that transcends physical death and in which resides my only real security.

Advertisements