August humidity causes me to feel sluggish and listless. The torpor makes this morning’s meditation more difficult. The feeling subsides somewhat as the air conditioning cycles on, but comes back over me after the blower turns off. I think about how the present moment used to be the distant future. A dull nostalgia soon overlays my consciousness.
A memory of a past adolescent notion comes to mind. I used to think that by the year 2000, middle age would be upon me. At the time, the turn of the century seemed far away. Now that we’re more than halfway through 2014, the turn of the century is becoming a dim memory. Perhaps, someday, I’ll look back at this period with amazement, too.
Samuel Butler wrote that “Human life is as evanescent as the morning dew or a flash of lightning.” A similar saying has been popularly attributed to the Lord Buddha. “This existence of ours is as transient as Autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky, rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.”
As I live through more years and mentally glance backwards, the truth of these pithy statements is shocking. Some of my careful plans have unfolded. Others were dashed by events that could never be foreseen. The opportunities of what was then the future, expanded and contracted. Some of the progress was expected but much of it couldn’t be planned for. Resistance was futile. To embrace change has made life more enjoyable and vital.
If you’ve read this far, you’re likely a person who has embarked on a journey of personal development. Along with the accomplishment of many of the goals that you had hoped for has come unexpected detours and blockages of the path. We humans encounter disappointment and frustration. Sometimes we feel that we just might have wasted a lot of time by taking the paths we have. We often forget that the setbacks are a common and integral part of life. We can reject their impact or we can accept and learn from them. The choice is always ours to make.
As in the rest of life, our changes do not only affect us, personally, but they wash over those near us. When I was in my mid 20s, my boyfriend and I had plans to build a life together. We laid out objectives and goals to help manifest our future together. Within the next few years, two roadblocks appeared. First, his student visa expired and couldn’t be renewed, so he was recalled back to Japan. Second, on the eve of his 32nd birthday, his life was claimed in a traffic accident. There was little or nothing either of us could do to avoid these changes. Nobody is immune to change.
Whether changes are unplanned events or come about by careful design, we are presented with opportunities to expand our horizons. We can feel aversion and resist changes, or we can embrace change by learning how to grow from experience.
Opportunities to feel, share compassion and care for other people often come up. We might also realize that our best opportunities for life enhancement are to be found outside our habitual ways of thinking and our current environment.
The understanding that change is inevitable can make us feel fearful, or we can look beyond fear. We know that changes and challenges will continue to appear. Will our horizons contract or expand? Will our attitudes freeze and stick us in the mud, or will they remain flexible and help us become curious and adaptable?
As I sat in meditation, I knew the languid, laziness brought on by the sultry, morning air, would soon fade away. What feels everpresent, unchanging, even traditional, will eventually go away. New changes await.