Impermanence

A few months ago I was out walking up a mountain, and unusually I didn’t have my dogs with me. I decided to look for a suitable spot to sit and meditate for a while.

In the distance I saw what looked like an ideal spot: a small rock outcrop just large enough to sit on. However, on approaching it I noticed something unusual about it.

Firstly I noticed that there were several bouquets of fresh flowers placed on the rock. Then I saw, scattered liberally about the place, what looked at first like white sand. I quickly realised that what I was looking at wasn’t sand at all, but cremated human remains. Someone had recently scattered the “ashes” (which are actually just pulverised bone) of a deceased loved one at that spot.

I decided to find somewhere else to meditate, as it would have felt somewhat disrespectful to disturb that spot. I did spend a few minutes in reflective thought there first, though.

What was I seeing? Someone who had once been alive, someone’s child, someone’s parent or sibling. Certainly someone who was loved by others. Now he or she was no more than a scattering of cremulated bone fragments on the side of a mountain. I reflected on the inescapable fact that the same will happen to me one day.

Maybe today, maybe in fifty years’ time, maybe somewhere in between, at some point I will die. That is inevitable. So, given that fact, and the fact that I have no way of knowing when it will occur, how should I live in the time I have left in this life? That is something upon which it is well worth reflecting.

All conditioned things are impermanent. That includes us. We try to pretend it’s not true, that it won’t happen to us, but it is and it will. We must face that fact and be mindful of it, not ignore it.

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