In an earlier post: Go Fetch! I only mentioned in passing that while sharpening my meditation skills at a Buddhist monastery, I also learned about impermanence. This morning, after coming out of a Bikram yoga class, I realized that when I wrote that last week, I only knew that the concept impermanence existed. In other words, I did not really know what impermanence is. Today is when I experienced impermanence for the very first time.
The aha! moment hit me this morning when I went to pay for parking. For three years I’ve been making sure that I leave my yoga class in time to get to my car within 2 hours so that I pay $1 for parking and not $7. Today my system went wrong and I got zapped by a $7 dollar fee for going over just 2 minutes. Those 2 minutes cost me $5 bucks. Okay so it’s not a big deal, it’s just $2 bucks. However, I’m ashamed of myself to say that the last time that I went over and had to pay $7, I went totally nuts. First I felt pangs of anger in my belly, the temperature in my body rose and angry thoughts started to swirl in my head at a million miles an hour. Admittedly a totally extreme reaction, but that’s what I experienced.
Today though when I saw the $7 dollar charge come up on the parking meter, I acknowledged it with a gentle ‘oh’, and took out a bill from my wallet. Calmy and feeling undisturbed by the mishap, I walked back to my car.
Has meditation damaged my amygdala – the region responsible for emotional reactions in our brains? Or has meditation allowed me to let go off things at the speed of light? Because I still cry of laughter whenever I hear something funny, and I’m still in love with my husband, I know that the latter has to be true.
Taking it a step further, I realized that if anything, meditation has turned me into a more rational human being. (Notice the focus on human – other living beings have the capacity to feel – just think slaughter house – but their ability to reason and make decisions is still questionable) How am I more rational? By not holding on to anger, I did not occupy my mind unnecessarily. Instead I used it to think of my options. I now know that if I park out on the street for 5 days in a row, by not paying a $1 each day, I’ll make up for the extra $5 bucks that I paid today. That’s an option right there, which even gives me the opportunity to change my scenery and get more fresh air. Maybe it’s a bit extreme to go through that process for such a triviality, but this realization is certainly worth testing on the bigger issues that life throws my way.
What does this have to do with impermanence? Right now, take a deep breath and hold on to it. Hold it. Hold it a few more seconds. Keep holding it. Okay let go!
What were you thinking while you were holding on to your breath? I suspect that like me, all you could think of was how great it would feel to breathe out.
Then my question is, if it’s inevitable that the breath will go out, that things are impermanent, then why hold on to them in the first place?
By holding on to things we’re only hurting ourselves and certainly not being part of the solution. We become part of the solution by thinking through our options, not by holding on to things.
Next time that you’re holding on to something, like a big important problem, you might want to ask yourself: “Why am I taking up head space and energy holding on to this? Instead why not use my mind in smarter ways, like thinking creatively and looking for solutions?”