In this post, anything in quotation marks will be from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh, as I’ll be referencing it throughout this post and its sequel in part 2.
“The Three Dharma Seals are impermanence, nonself, and nirvana. Any teaching that does not bear these Three Seals cannot be said to be a teaching of the Buddha.”
Yesterday morning, during my Mindful Morning practice that I do each weekend on either Saturday or Sunday, my Dharma reading included passages from Interbeing and The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings. After reading parts from the chapter entitled The Three Dharma Seals in the latter book, I began writing and reflecting about my own understanding of the first two seals: impermanence and nonself, and ways in which I practice to embody these elements in my daily life, moving them from a place of intellectual understanding to direct experience.
“Impermanence is more than an idea. It is a practice to help us touch reality.”
My own definition of impermanence: All things are in an ongoing & steady state of flux.
It’s one thing to intellectually understand that everything changes. It’s a whole other thing to actually practice with what it means, how it shows up in our daily life, and to cultivate the wisdom enfolded into its teachings.
“When we study impermanence, we have to ask, “Is there anything in this teaching that has to do with my daily life, my daily difficulties, my suffering?” If we see impermanence as merely a philosophy, it is not the Buddha’s teaching.”
Spurred by my morning reading, I asked myself: how do I practice impermanence? Meaning: how do I move impermanence from a brain-based relationship to a heartfelt experience?
Here’s what I came up with.
Ways I practice impermanence:
- Volunteering with hospice.
- Actively reflecting on the inevitability of death as it pertains to my closest loved ones (not easy!).
- Turning towards – not away from – the nature of reality of my stepson growing up and practicing the art of letting go.
- Investing intentional time and energy into comfort zone expansion work.
- Occasionally giving away a cherished belonging.
- Having a collectively generated fridge collage of drawings and then burning them when the fridge is full, in order to start over with a new creation.
- Engaging with the ever-fluctuating mountain weather as a valuable teacher providing me with daily opportunities to practice going with (instead of against) the flow of what presents itself outside of my preferences and/or sway.
My practice verse in relation to impermanence:
Life is precious and time is short.