Posted 3 June 2015 by Sal
Sadness and Suffering
Q: I have been thinking about "all things will pass"...which I understand, but if things do pass, such as my father's death, but it still is with me in an emotional way, are you just pointing to the physical part of this saying, and what do the words really mean...if something does pass but it stays with you, then what would you call that?
I believe this to be in memory but you do reference this saying a lot and I'm not nit-picking, more of trying to understand more about it so I have a better idea of this concept.
A: No, I don't mean just the physical part. All emotions pass as well. In fact, if you just have an honest look, you will recognize that that emotion comes and goes, and in fact, is mostly not present. You will think of your father and then sadness will appear. A little while later you are immersed in work and it is not appearing. Or you are enjoying a sunset, or laughing at your partner's jokes, or having a bad nightmare or beautiful dream at night, watching TV, or just thinking of nothing in particular.
So, in that way, you can see that no appearance is permanent. And, in fact, that sadness is never quite the same each time. Sometimes it is strong, sometimes mild, sometimes crushing, sometimes sentimental or nostalgic, sometimes sweet and tender. It is not a static fixed thing that is permanent. In a year it will be less. In ten years even far less. So, it is not permanent, it passes. In fact, it is mostly not appearing at all. See that for yourself.
We have created the concept of continuity, that something that appears in our mind remains there, like in the subconscious. But that is only a belief. That belief causes a lot of suffering. But just as in nature, appearances come and go—wind comes and goes, the moon comes and goes, rain comes and goes, winter, spring, summer, fall—this is natural and it is just the same for your thoughts and emotions. They are natural appearances too.
But, there is something that is present during all of those things I mentioned above. Guess what that is? Yep, YOU. Your essential aware nature. That is always present in all of the moments of sadness or joy. You would never know any of those experiences without your essential aware nature being present. It is because of YOU that anything is known.
So, when sadness for your father arises, it is a natural appearance and perfect as it is. In that moment just notice your essential aware nature, that you are aware. This helps in not getting into too much of a "poor me" story. Instead, it shines the light of wisdom on the story. In that moment you will know the sadness is impermanent. That is wisdom. Getting into a poor me story and believing that it is permanent or continuous causes suffering. Without that, the sadness arises and passes in its very natural flow. It is just an appearance passing on by.
Sadness is natural. Causing it to linger around for a long time by building up a story is something we have learned to do. But it is not necessary. And, it is not necessary to think that if you don't dwell on this sadness for a long time it means that you don't love your father enough. That is another learned and false belief.
See in your own experience that everything arises and passes, appears and disappears. And that if you recognize your essential aware nature during its appearance it takes on its very natural rhythm and just passes by without causing any harm. When you do this you will see that you are on to the next experience and emotion very quickly. And that too shall pass. But you remain always, aware.