I was once given a teaching in a dream that helped me understand the distinction between the permanent and the impermanent. The understanding of this dream enabled me to embrace life as it is. It showed me that all of life is transient, and I can be free to enjoy the ups in life without grasping at them, and recognize that the downs in life are also temporary and so there is no need to try and make them “go away.”
This dream took place during a particularly challenging phase of my life; I had gone to bed one night feeling hopeless and drained and fell asleep in a state of despair and exhaustion. I had a very vivid dream that I was dead. In the dream there was someone beside me that I couldn’t see, but I could hear a voice and feel a loving presence. I remember feeling really sad and full of remorse that I had died, and wishing that I could go back to Earth, if even for just two minutes.
The voice beside me offered to fulfill my wish, and sent me back for two minutes. In a blink I was dropped back down to Earth in my familiar body, but surrounded by totally different circumstances. In this new scenario I had just found out that the love of my life was having an affair with another woman, and I was feeling heartbroken and alone. Elated with being back, I didn’t care about the ‘scene’ going on around me, I felt relieved and grateful just to be back. Knowing my two minutes would be up soon I soaked in every precious second of heartbreak, sorrow, betrayal, and loss. After getting pulled out of this scene and back to the “dead” state, I asked again if I could please be allowed to go back for just two minutes more. The voice agreed and I was allowed to go back.
This time I was dropped into yet another totally different scenario. In this one I was happily married but we were going bankrupt and losing everything we owned. Knowing that the two minutes were fleeting, I soaked in every second of financial distress, worry, and uncertainty. Once more I was pulled out, floating in deadness with the loving voice. Again I asked to go back, and again I was given that wish. This time I became aware of an interesting time distortion. In the scene around me everything was falling apart, I was feeling the impossibility of “holding it together.” Knowing the two minutes would end soon I drank in “falling apart” and the feeling of losing control. I noticed that what felt to me like two minutes was different than the time line playing out in the scene around me. Hours were racing by in the situation around me, while my two minutes were slowly ticking by. At some point I became aware that I was dreaming and a very lucid thought, ‘OK, you have made your point’, shattered the dream. I found myself lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. For a few minutes I drank in the sensation of being alive, really alive. I drank in what it meant to be human, and the sweetness of all the things we experience here.
Being able to see clearly the distinction between what is fleeting and what is permanent enables us to drink in life as it is. It offers us the space to remember that a human life is transitory, emotions come and go, human experience is so very brief, and yet, right behind it there is something so powerful, yet subtle, something ever-present that doesn’t change. That backdrop can be noticed in any moment by looking at that which is noticing the comings and goings of life. The awareness that notices is the same as your eternal essence. That awareness is ever present and can never be harmed in any way. This simple recognition opens up the space for allowing all life to simply be as it is. Just as recognizing that the moon’s cycle will change while the sky stays the same. This gives us the freedom to appreciate the moon’s presence while it is full, and the absence of the moon when it is new. Understanding impermanence teaches us that to cling to the changing brings about more struggle, and to try to manipulate aspects of life that we don’t like is as futile as trying to push the ocean’s waves. Everything within form will rise and fall like waves on the ocean. Allowing life to come and go in this way brings about an inner freedom to appreciate what IS right in front of you, here and now.