I am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health.
There is no way to escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.
The first three remembrances of the Buddha come off as pretty big bummers. You get old, you get sick, and you die. I brought up the remembrances to some family members and they stared at me in disbelief. There was a long pause and then one of them said, "Wow. That is really depressing." I understood why they might think that, but since I discovered them years ago, I have come to find them freeing.
A certain level of acceptance is necessary to find peace with these first three remembrances. But let's face it: we can all agree we're going to age, become ill, and die, right? That's the nature of this life and there's no way around that. Once I learned that that was the way of things, I knew there was no reason to fight it. And I saw how much unhappiness arose not only in me, but others, when we can't be the young healthy people we desire.
I've come to peace that this is how my life is going to go. Does it mean that I like getting older, ill, or the thought that my loved ones (and I myself) will someday die? Not really. But what can I do about it? I can have empathy for those experiencing times of illness or who are going through the death of a loved one. And I can listen and love them when they're frustrated that the strength of their youth has gone from them.
Once there's an acknowledgment of the way life works (aging, illness, death) we can turn to accepting them. That acceptance is a daily struggle. It requires constant patience (which is one of my weak traits). But what does fighting against these constants in life get us? It can often cause us sadness, despair, and frustration, which doesn't help things.
I will be the first to acknowledge this isn't easy to accept. And that it comes off as a major downer. But I can also tell you that learning to accept that life operates this way has brought me a great deal of patience and humility.
It's also helped me avoid situations that might otherwise exasperate my depression and anxiety. There are times I’ve fallen ill with the flu or an injury from being physically active. Those situations leave me wondering if I’m at the beginning of some greater, more serious illness. It also leads me to sadness at not being able to do everything I want to do. Yet, when I reflect on the remembrances, I acknowledge that such events are a given in life. There’s nothing I can do but accept it and adjust my behavior accordingly.
So, I've addressed some of the bigger forces at work in our world—things that have been upon us since the dawn of humankind. But what about the nature of other humans? How do we deal with them and how freaking annoying they can be? That's material for the next blog post.
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