Live Without Fear and Anxiety:
We can choose to live without fear and anxiety. Often enough, we find ourselves hiding behind fear and anxiety to escape our difficulties with the present moment. This running-away becomes familiar, and we begin to consider it a natural process to recluse ourselves to these domains. Yet, when we remember the past, we only experiencing the present momentary sensations of our memory. So too, when we imagine the future, we undergo only the moment-to-moment impressions of our imagination. In the end, neither the past nor the future exists. Our suffering originates exclusively from our desire to live within these impossible realms. The solution is obvious, live in the present moment.
The Challenge of Impermanence:
Whether we like it or not, the world we live in is impermanent. Once we experience anything, it immediately begins to fade away, never to be reencountered. We exist in a seemingly endless set of sensations, occurring one after another. Logical understanding may be helpful, but experiential knowledge changes your life. With correct practice, you will experience the world’s impermanence first-hand and live purely in the present moment.
The Practice of Impermanence:
Similar to the practice discussed in The Fundamental Skills of Mediation, we begin with concentration. Settle into a relaxed position and count ten breaths. There’s no rush here, and in your mind, it may sound like, “inhale-one, exhale-one…” and so on. Once you’re able to get through ten full breaths without distraction, begin noting your abdomen’s physical rising and falling. Whenever you experience the rising and falling of the abdomen, note “rising, rising, rising, falling, falling falling.”
At this point, it’s common to find yourself overwhelmed with distractions. You may feel a restlessness in the body or diverted by daydreams. To counterbalance these distractions, begin noting them as well. Should you be noting the rising of the abdomen and become distracted by the sound of a siren, you may note, “rising, rising, siren, siren, siren.” Fixate your attention on the siren and note it responsibly. When completed, return to the rising of the abdomen. You’ll find as you carefully begin to note the distractions, they fall away indefinitely.
Once most of the distractions have fallen away, and you remain entirely fixated on the abdomen’s rising and falling, begin separating the mental sensations from the physical. For example, before every physical experience of the abdomen’s rising, it is preceded by mental desire and proceeded by mental noting. Begin separating these mental sensations and notice their chain of causation. You may note this as “desire, rising, noting,” and so on. With practice, you’ll begin to notice how desire causes the physical sensation, so too, this causes the mental noticing. At first, this is very difficult. Break it down into sections and practice daily.
At this point, your level of concentration will be powerful, and you’ll begin to notice how the rising and falling of the abdomen is not a single sensation but thousands-and-thousands of micro-sensations occurring one after another. As you experience each one, do your best to note as many of them as possible. At first, they’ll be too fast, and that’s okay. Notice how these sensations come and then immediately fall away forever, only to be replaced by another sensation. This is the impermanence of sensations.
The Lesson of Impermanence:
Continue nothing impermanence, not only within the rising and falling of the abdomen but everything else as well. Whether through one of the six sense doors (e.g., touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, thinking), fear, misery, disgust, or even desire, notice how these sensations come and then immediately disappear. As your practice continues to grow, new types of sensations will appear. These too will at first seem to be whole and permanent, and you’ll continue learning the lesson over and over again until it permeates everything within your awareness. Just as you once crawled and now walk; so too, once you discover the impermanence of sensations, you’ll never view the world the same way again.