Posts Tagged ‘impermanence’

As I contemplated the idea of the sand mandala that Tibetan monks made at my kids’ school and then swept away (see my earlier post), I kept getting an image of how we all sort of make these “mind” mandalas that we build on and build on, but don’t sweep away.

Okay, here’s what I mean.  We all have recurring thoughts that run through our heads.  Sometimes they’re negative…something that nags and makes you feel bad.  Other times they’re good…maybe something you’re looking forward to or makes you feel happy.  I would argue, based on nothing but my intuition, that humans go back to the negative feelings more often than the positive ones.  We obsess about the things that bother us.  And so I imagine that every time we go back to one of those thoughts, it’s like we’re putting another grain of sand in the mandala to that particular thing.

Let’s say you have a boss you don’t like.  In your head, you revisit this subject often, putting in all the reasons you don’t like this person…one grain at a time.  If you say that each different point you make is a different color, I would bet there are a lot of repeat colors because our minds go over the same thing again and again.  To what end?  We create this elaborate mandala, beautiful in a way, to something that upsets us.  And we just take for granted that it’s there and permanent in some way.

Why not sweep it away?  Why keep feeding it?  It’s okay to feel angry or hurt or not heard, but as long as you hold on to that mandala, nothing will change.  What about creating one quickly…putting together every element you can come up with.  Pouring your energy into this thing and then simply sweep it away, and not accept this status quo mandala you’re holding onto in your head.

I experienced something really cool last Friday.  My kids’ school had five Tibetan monks on campus for a week, and they spent three of those days creating a Sand Mandala.

On Friday they had a closing ceremony when they swept it away.  The Mandala was an intricate design of brightly colored sand about three feet by three feet.  The monks, dressed in their maroon robes, created it painstakingly grain by grain by grain.

I felt drawn to the whole idea of creating something and then taking it away, so I went to the closing ceremony.  It was a funny and somehow moving scene.  The entire school was crammed into one room to watch.  Everyone stayed quiet and still while thanks were given, chants were chanted.  When one monk started the process of sweeping the Mandala away (it was on a table and the kids were sitting on the floor),  first one, then two, then three of them popped up like gophers from their holes to get a better look.  The teachers tried to wave them back down without talking, but the tide got too strong and all of a sudden all the students were standing around the table to get a better look.

That struck me.  This quiet, calm moment had a group of kids, from 5 to 14-years-old completely enthralled.  It was the ceremony of it, but I also think there was a bit of wonder at the fact that they were taking away this beautiful creation they had spent many hours making.   I couldn’t help but think about all the artwork and small creations that our children make and we parents save.  We take photos to save moments.  We take video to save moments.  We save and we save.  What are we holding onto?  Do we ever teach our children to let go?

I’m not saying that saving and treasuring is bad, but I do think it’s worth thinking about how much we do it and what it is like to accept the idea of impermanence that this ritual represents.  Everything has a beginning, middle and an end.  And that’s okay.

Because of this experience, I’ve been thinking a lot about impermanence and not being attached.  Both to things and thoughts.  I’ve got a few things/thoughts I’m going to try to let go…to sweep away.   What are you holding onto that might be good to let go?