Human nature teaches us to believe that whatever we are experiencing is real and permanent. For example, I know that I've been at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp for 716.5 days, but who's counting. We also know that every day has 24 hours and every year has 365 days, with leap year thrown in for accuracy. We have only to observe the moon on a clear evening to understand predictability. We sense these things are permanent, but are they?
Did you know that 450 million years ago, a year wasn't 365 days, it was 415 days; and 360 million years ago, it was 400 days? That's because the speed at which the earth rotates has been slowing down for a few hundred million years since an immense asteroid crashed into our planet and a large fragment bounced off to become the moon. The moon's gravitational pull is still slowing the earth's rotation. In 100 years, it will take 1.17 milliseconds longer to rotate than it does today. The moon, by the way, is also slowly moving away from us, too. At one time, it was 10 times closer than it is today. All that to say that NOTHING we see, touch, taste, smell and hear today is permanent. It will be different or gone tomorrow.
Mistakenly clinging to an idea of permanence can distort our thought process. So much of our alone time is spent wrestling with a reality that's neither real nor permanent. It's merely our own perception. Our natural tendency is to seek fulfillment through achievement, relationships, pleasure and affirmation, but instead of fulfillment we often get problems when our wants, needs and expectations aren't met. We then react negatively with feelings arising from our fear--sadness, anger, shame and frustration.
How would our lives be different if instead we looked at every situation, not as an opportunity for fulfillment, but as opportunity to learn, about ourselves and others, to purify our minds, and to make the world a better place? If we could seek this kind of contentment, we could react to unpleasant situations with kindness, not because we "got our way," but because we're OK with ourselves.
The daily practice of meditation provides a vehicle for us to see reality differently, moving past the ups and downs of fleeting events and emotions, so that we see the present differently. Meditation is not "zoning out" or running from reality. It's a way for us to embrace, but also detach ourselves, from the impermanence that surrounds us. To do that, we have to look inward and recognize our false self that seeks to be attached to life as only we see or desire it. In meditation we can come face to face with our true selves. Why are we angry or exasperated? What do these reactions feel like? Are they compassionate?
If we can identify and dissect those fearful feelings, we can also kiss them goodbye. It can be the first step on a pathway to wisdom and compassion, to love. For only love is permanent.