I am reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. In it she writes, “On the night on which he was to attain enlightenment, the Buddha sat under a tree. While he was sitting there, he was attacked by the forces of Mara. The story goes that they shot swords and arrows at him, and that their weapons turned into flowers. What does this story mean? My understanding of it is that what we habitually regard as obstacles are not really our enemies, but rather our friends. What we call obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we’re stuck. What may appear to be an arrow or a sword we can actually experience as a flower. Whether we experience what happens to us as obstacle and enemy or as teacher and friend depends entirely on our perception of reality. It depends on our relationship with ourselves.”
What is our relationship with ourselves? What is the story in our head? What are we expecting to happen? How is our confirmation bias finding more of the same and uncovering less of the unexpected?
We look for stability and control but as Pema writes, “Impermanence is bittersweet, like buying a new shirt and years later finding it as part of a patchwork quilt. People have no respect for impermanence. We take no delight in it; in fact, we despair of it. We regard it as pain. We try to resist it by making things that will last – forever, we say – things that we don’t have to wash, things that we don’t have to iron. Somehow, in the process of trying to deny that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life. We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things. Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality. Many cultures celebrate this connectedness. There are ceremonies marking all the transitions of life from birth to death, as well as meetings and partings, going into battle, losing the battle, and winning the battle. We too could acknowledge, respect, and celebrate impermanence.”
How might we experience life differently if we lived like we had just received a second chance at life? If the struggles and pains were reminders that we were here. We were loved. We were growing. We were travelling through. How can we embrace the impermanence of life and the tiny, little moment of right now? And how can we see our obstacles as flowers along the path in the journey of a lifetime?