How many times we have heard from someone, returning from a retreat or a quest, that this was the most profound experience of their life, that they know now? I was a friend of many who were involved in a different spiritual circles, from meditation to shamanic, and I witnessed “The Return” many times. My own experience of years in retreats and many of my friends that I knew closely, only deepened my understanding of impermanence.
Impermanence is a Buddhist term, “anicca” in ancient language Sanskrit. It defines the material world in which we live and us, as a part of it, as ever changing. Seems like we all know about it, right? Some of us keep throwing “Impermanence” word so often these days, it became a part of our life, just like “meditation”, “transformation”, or “awakening”. We think we know what impermanence is, until we go to the next retreat or have next experience, next “journey”. Then we return all blissed out and absolutely sure that this is it, this is how we will be from now on.
I don’t want to be a party pooper, I often feel like I don’t know what to say when I am told the next story of being “Avatar”, “The Light”, having “total heart opening” and “complete transformation”. Actually I do know what I want to say, but I also know it will not work at the moment for the one who is in blissed out state, so I smile. I usually smile and continue to listen to the journey of the mind that took someone to be an Avatar, The Light, or Egyptian Goddess (these are only a few examples of the experiences I got to hear). I know that experiences of this sort are amazing grand show of the human mind, and surely, they transform to the certain degree the old brain patterns, but I also know that with time the experience fades, and the life continues. As we were coming back from the retreat together, my teacher from Gurgieff Way with a smirk in his eyes, once said: “Isn’t it life comes on us like a ton of bricks?”
I don’t want to underestimate the value of such experiences, it is definitely an opening, a new understanding, a new beginning. But I also don’t want to overemphasize it and add even more to the fascination. Fascination is a mind state in itself, and it is also impermanent, as any of the mind states. Fascination is a wonderful wondrous state, and can be very pleasurable, especially for someone who was absolutely sure of the world that he lives in as a certain material structure. I support fascination of the human mind, what I can’t support is the belief that any of the mind states, be as open and vast as space of consciousness itself or the opposite of it, are permanent.
Even if I want to participate in the joy of others celebrating “enlightenment”, as they perceive the mind journey to be, I can’t really set aside the understanding of impermanence. I want to say that enlightenment is deep understanding/knowing of the impermanence of the apparent world phenomena, even in the transcendental experiences, and at the same time knowing the nature of the mind as boundless and beyond the transitory experiences. No wonder human life is duality that needs not to be rejected, but realized intimately. At this moment mind knows its true nature, and in the next moment mind is contracted to it's usual human busyness. Some experiences perceived by us to be a mystical, superhuman, transcending, but they too, come to an end, and we find ourselves back to very human, as we call it “mundane” states.
So what the heck we are seeking then? If the wisdom of experience can’t stay here forever, if we come back to ourselves in the body and mind of one who lives here in this town, goes to work every day, and has a husband/wife and two kids, what to do? How to reconcile the Avatar and the wife, a mother? The Light and the Joe, the accountant, the plumber, or a doctor?
If we really study Impermanence, by the way of meditation, contemplation, or even life long observation, we will see that it is something that permeates every experience, so it is an ethereal fabric from which every experience is weaved, be that an experience of day to day life, or transcendent experience. The very base of any experience is Impermanence, and to learn that, notice it, and wonder on the impermanence itself is more reliable and gratifying then the fascination with the transcendent mind states. They sooner or later change, leaving us in the restless state of wanting and longing for something more then it is present at this very moment, and it is in itself is the source of human suffering.