By Leo Babauta
The cherry blossom falls after its short beautiful bloom.
It floats gently down to earth. Its life is over, but the limitedness of its existence is one of the biggest reasons the blossom is so gorgeous. If we knew that the blossom would last forever, it wouldn’t have the same poignant beauty, and we’d take it for granted.
The blossom’s impermanence, its fleetingness, its transience — this is why we appreciate it.
Our lives are similarly short. We have but a moment on this rock, but we forget that impermanence and take our days for granted. We fritter away those days with the wasted activities of TV, social media, computer games.
If we remember the impermanence of life, perhaps we could appreciate its gentle passing with as much appreciation as a cherry blossom.
Impermanence and Suffering
Our struggle with impermanence causes much, if not all, of our suffering. We don’t want things to change, we want things to be the way we want them. And when they aren’t, we are stressed out, frustrated, disappointed, grieving, mourning, wishing things were different.
But what if we could accept this impermanence, accept the reality of this moment, embrace it as we do the cherry blossom?
We might be a bit more at peace with reality:
- My wife’s father has dementia, and this means the painful decline of his life. This is understandably hard for those of us who love him, but what if we could appreciate the beauty of his life, and who he is at this moment, instead of struggling against the loss of what he was?
- My father has diabetes and is suffering declining health, and that’s hard for me and my siblings to watch. But what if we found the beauty in the moments we still have with him, and appreciate what he’s given us already?
- There is some fat on my stomach, and when I look at it I sometimes wish for the leanness of my youth. What if, instead, I could see the aging as a reminder of life’s impermanence, and realize that I have less time now than I did at 19, and set out to make the most of the moments I have left?
- We have a son moving on to adulthood, which is difficult for us because it’s like we’re losing a child, and he’ll be going out into the world without our protection, exposed to the world’s many daggers and insults. What if instead we appreciate the moments we have with him in our home, and embrace the new son we have, grown and ready to experience a new life?
- I have some work I’ve been resisting for various reasons, probably because I’m afraid I don’t know what I’m doing and think it will disappoint people. But I can’t know what life will bring, and can’t control what will come. All I can do is appreciate this moment, and endeavor to do my best with this work, and not squander the precious time I’ve been given to do this work.
- There are times I get frustrated with not sticking to a plan, because yes, I fail at sticking to things like everyone else. But this is life — unexpected, uncontrollable, not according to plan. We want to control things by planning and sticking to a plan, but life changes and fails to conform. We can embrace this uncontrollable reality by accepting what happens, adjusting, figuring out a new plan in the moment and accepting that this might not turn out as we expect either.
- Often unexpected changes come up to our day that cause frustration. A crisis, an unexpected visitor, an unplanned event. We can resist these changes and be angry, or accept that life is unpredictable, full of changes, and appreciate this ever-changing nature of life as part of its wonder.
In each of these situations, the impermanent, ever-changing nature of life can cause stress, frustration, sadness and anger. But when we embrace the impermanence and work with it, life can be a joy, and we can appreciate the painful beauty of this temporary existence.
As we watch the blossom falling, we see ourselves in it, and we feel the gravity of the moment.