Taming Restlessness


Most of us would say without much hesitation that we understand what impermanence means, wouldn’t we? But actually I think most of us don’t know what impermanence really means; because if we truly did know the nature of everything that came into our experience as being impermanent we would not grasp at things the way we do. I think if we did really know impermanence we would have a much more circumspect attitude and tend to allow things to follow their natural course of change, without our habitual desire to grasp and control.

We don’t see the truth of impermanence as being an impersonal law because if we did we would realise that, because everything is in a permanent flux, nothing could really ever become a tightly grasped possession. It would also make us doubt our absolute conviction of a solid and fixed ‘me’.

So because we don’t know the true meaning of the impersonal law of impermanence, when we sit on our cushion we don’t let the itch come to be and cease to be, we don’t let the pain in our leg come to be and cease to be. We grasp at the experience and make it ‘my itch’ or ‘my pain’, compounding the experience still further thus creating even more suffering and reaction.

As these particular experiences are unpleasant we try to avoid them by giving in to restlessness and frustration, and in doing so disturb our meditation. We are not prepared to remain still and stay with these experiences and let them show their impermanence, are we? We don’t seem to be willing enough to bear with these experiences until they pass away and allow ourselves to remain in the non-grasping mirror-like nature of awareness, where the clarity of wisdom can arise and transform. If we really knew about impermanence this is what we would do, learn to just sit and contain restlessness, because we would know that to let things be and remain still is to be unattached, and in being unattached and beyond restlessness we find freedom and liberation from dukkha.

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