This post originally appeared in Journey of Peace in February 2012.
One of the most significant design features of the human person is how we experience time and space. We exist in a single moment in a single place. Those moments and spaces are, of course, surrounded by considerable context, but only in our imagination can we leave moment and place in which we actually are.
Now then, what does this have to do with peace and compassion? Believe it or not, this phenomenon presents an opportunity to explore peace with self.
I recently started a new job(Thanks be to God). In my new job, I experience some anxiety and uncertainty and holistic discomfort because I am new. I don’t know all the pieces, nuances, or friendly front desk people. My schedule has changed which means I can no longer do all the activities and see all the people I used to…although now I can do new activities and see new people. I’ve been in an odd sort of limbo since mid-December…first there were the weeks in which I had interviews…then the weeks in which I waited to hear if I would get the job and wanted to plan around the new job but couldn’t but nor could I not plan around the new job…then there was the vacation to Central America…then the last two weeks at my previous job…and now two weeks of shadowing my new co-workers. Meanwhile, I had a normal paycheck, a scary vacation paycheck, and now I’m waiting for my last paycheck with my former-location-income…and I’m really looking forward to my new income, but that still won’t kick in until mid-March.
The end of this three month transition is really great(I see it coming), but the whole process is long and awkward! I have often been catching myself wishing it were over and planning for things(like a fat paycheck) that simply have not arrived yet. Those in recovery would say that I am future tripping and they’re right and it’s stressing me out.
But I am coming to see that stress is a burden I unnecessarily take upon myself by trying to experience more than one moment, more than one state of being at a time.
Logically, then, my goal for achieving a more peaceful lifestyle ought to be to focus on experiencing only one moment at a time.
But what if the present moment sucks?
Ah, Grasshoppa, this is where you must remember that all things are impermanent! Like every wave returns to the water. Like every flower returns to the earth. Like every blazing hot day returns to night. Like every person lives, then dies and returns to the Earth and to God.
This is the thought I present to the interested reader. All things are impermanent.
For the one experiencing stress, distress, pain or other challenges, they are impermanent. Something about the situation will change. Something about you will change. Something different will come. You have no need to despair. You should not become bitter.
For the one experiencing prosperity, exuberance, strength, or other victories, they are impermanent. Something about the situation will change. Something about you will change. Something different will come. You have no right to boast. You should become complacent.
The best way to be is content. Know who you are. Know where you are. Know what you are doing. Know who is with you. Then act and live the best you can.
Addendum: When I say all things are impermanent, I am thinking of things in the world. People, feelings, situations, trends, and such. I am not thinking of God and that which governs the universe. These things are more permanent…but still we can only experience God one moment at a time.