What really gets in the way of contentment for the average human as we navigate our way through our life?
Stoic and Buddhist philosophy throw some similar themes into the mix. Even Mick Jagger hit it on the head in with a hit record.
My reflection is the combination of the illusion of permanence (things will always be so) and a denial of our mortality are intrinsically linked and a great cause of the reason we ‘Can’t get no satisfaction’ (Thanks Mick)
Buddism has a core theme around impermanence, every compound thing, be it you, the expensive house or car, the birds and trees even Earth are not permanent fittings. Sorry that expensive kitchen will ultimately become dust! They are diminishing every day towards that final point where they return to their simplest component form – to one day be re-aggregated into something new. Nature is the greatest of recyclers.
That’s all well and good for things external to us but is a little more sobering as a reflection of ourself. We are only here for a short time (for simplicity lets put aside the rebirth concept of Buddhism for now), yet often go through each day with the mindset of having an infinite number of such days ahead of ourselves.
It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not. — Thich Nhat Hanh
We often hear tales of those whose life is transformed when they are truly presented with their mortality, be it through medical diagnosis, a true near death, the loss of a loved one or maybe even Enlightenment.
Stoics anchor on the concept of Momento Mori – ‘Remember, you must die’. Personally, I add and emphasise Momento Mori as ‘Remember, you too must die’. Far from being morbid, Momento Mori is a liberating reminder that one day will be your last and each day is precious.
Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time. – Seneca
I had the greatest opportunity to see the creation of a Buddhist Sand Mandala over a number of weeks and then its final destruction. How many of us would be comfortable destroying something we had worked on painstakingly for 6-8 hours a day for weeks? A thing of great beauty and admiration. The process of creating and then destroying such a thing is an incredible opportunity for a monk to ‘check-in’ on their comfort and understanding of both non-grasping and impermanence.
Creation of the Medicine Buddha Sanda Mandala
Dissolution of the Medicine Buddha Sand Mandala
So to have a level of contentment, embrace your mortality and that of those you love in a positive way. Make your moments count. Realise that new gadget, home or car is likely to provide a relatively short feeling of content. And as all things decay, remember to budget for the maintenance of that new car or home!