How dow we deal with the knowledge of our own impermanence? Speed up and fit more into life, or slow down and enjoy each moment?
Today I went to my favourite place – Frankston Beach.
I had my dog with me and as we entered the sand to commence our walk, I noticed how calm and peaceful it was. The beach has an instant effect on me and today I noticed it even more so. The waves lapped gently at the shoreline and it was clear enough to see across to the city. The buildings were visible and as my eyes scanned out into the distance, I realised how deserted the beach was today. It was a meditative moment without having my eyes shut.
As I walked along I took in every aspect of the landscape. The pink- tinged seaweed strewn across the wet sand, scattered shells, and remnants of plastic rubbish and what not dotted the place randomly.
I was in the moment, this single moment in time. As I looked across the bay I became so aware of my impermanence. The beach was going to outlive me. Although the landscape would change slightly over time, erosion will alter the look, but still the beach will remain. It gets to be permanent and just like my footsteps in the sand, I will be erased.
Washed away by time
I thought about all the souls that had traipsed the very path I was on, some hand in hand with their lovers, some with their dogs. I thought about children of yesteryear who back then had picked up shells to take home. This beach had been privy to memories made and times gone by.
The idea that we are mortal and have an inevitable expiry date leaves us with a great feeling of discomfort and fear. It fills us with sadness to think we will no longer be here, that our presence is fleeting. We are mere transients in this time and space.
How on earth do we live with this fact? We can’t go backwards. The past is no longer available to us. We can try and recreate it but no two moments would ever be the same. Resistance is futile, so what else can we do?
“Right”, we say, “time is running out.” We go into a bit of a panic even if it’s at a subconscious level. We feel the need to make plans, set goals, milk the system. Isn’t it best to make the most of it, to squeeze as much in and get the most out? So the solution to the problem is to get busy and the bonus in that is that we don’t have time to think of our imminent death. Sounds great, right?
The problem with that is that it is secretly stealing us of time best spent in the present. Living in the future robs us of the now. It makes time pass quicker. The busier we are the quicker it goes. There is no stopping the impermanence of our lives. But to manage it and maximise it, I beg you to slow down. Stop and breathe, breathe deep into your belly and be aware of your surroundings. Take it all in. Stare at the stars, watch the birds, and see shapes in the clouds. Sit with your children and play. Take a little longer to enjoy your coffee. Throw out the constant time management systems we have set up for ourselves. We don’t need to be constant slaves to time. We can learn to make it work for our own benefit so that we can maximise our ongoing enjoyment.
As I left the beach I was grateful for the beautiful time there. How quickly it had come and gone. Would I get to experience it again? Well now, that is never guaranteed. My presence there had now become a ghost of a memory like all the souls before me traipsing across the sand. There the beach remains and I am in envy of it as it has managed to find permanence in this impermanent world.
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