“Living in the Now: All Forms are Impermanent and Impersonal” Talk and Reference Notes

Sept. 5 Group Meditation Part 2 of 2

This talk was given September 5, 2017 by Freeman at the Boundless Love Project’s Group Meditation. Before listening to the talk, we suggest you listen to this Breath Meditation which preceded the talk. This talk has been edited to improve its clarity, content, and to shorten its length.

Talk Reference Notes

The below materials contains full definitions and explanations of terms used, a bullet point summary of the main points from the talk, how to work with the "Be here now" slogan, this week’s journal activity, and more.

Ghost Picture from Training Three:  Would it make sense to draw a ghost, and then be scared by it? No, yet we do this whenever we think of the future or the past and delusionally mistake it to be more real than the present moment.

Ghost Picture from Training Three: Would it make sense to draw a ghost, and then be scared by it? No, yet we do this whenever we think of the future or the past and delusionally mistake it to be more real than the present moment.

Talk terms defined and explained

 

Form

Any and all objects, be they material or immaterial, visible or invisible. Visible material objects include trees, houses, cars, bodies and so on. Invisible, immaterial objects include thoughts, emotions, sensations, habit-patterns, as well as air, wind, and so on.

All forms have two defining characteristics: they are impermanent and impersonal.

 

Impermanent

The immutable law that all forms, experiences, and situations are dynamic, changing, unstable, and destined to be lost, destroyed, or transformed into something else. Although evidence for the impermanence of all forms exists all around us, our ego mistakes the thoughts we have as the truth (the delusion of fixed-view), causing us to expect objects, experiences, and situations to be more lasting and permanent than they are. Then when change inevitably comes, our fixed-view leads to the delusion of resistance (arising as fear, anxiety, dread, anger, stress, denial, and so on) which causes us to suffer. The ego in us mistakenly believes that our suffering is caused by the change, and that our suffering will somehow get us back what we want. Both of these egoic thoughts are untrue. In reality, the resistance we have is the cause of the suffering we experience. There is nothing intrinsic to the change that causes us to suffer. The suffering arises based on our perception of the experience. When we perceive the experience with the delusions of fixed-view, resistance, and greed (the delusion to want something other than the present moment), these mental states create our psychological and emotional suffering.

When we take refuge in the absolute truth that all forms are impermanent, we let go of fixed-views, resistance to change, and greed for that which has been lost, and accept the present moment as it unfolds. Then, when unpleasant change happens, it doesn’t scare, surprise, or upset us, because we know change is the nature of reality in the world of form. Being continuously mindful of this truth allows us to immediately, with grace, ease, and peace, accept the present moment as it is.

The absolute truth of impermanence, when continually noticed and practiced, has the ability take you to a life free from suffering.

Antonym: fixed-view

 

Impersonal

1. An absolute truth that all forms are “not me, not mine.” Forms are “not me, not mine” because we have no control or ownership over any form, so why would we mistake that form to be who we are? All forms are organized according to biological and natural laws, and although we have some influence over some forms, we lack total control or ownership over any forms. We also lack control of the body, the thoughts, the emotions, and the sensations. Thus, when we mistakenly identify with, or see ourselves in any form, it results in our suffering. The impersonal nature of form is the absolute truth that counters the delusion of self-view.

Synonyms: nature

Antonyms: identification, self-view

2. Recognition that something is not about you. For example, if someone insults you, their insult says more about their mental state and perception that it does about you. Specifically, it says this person is lost in the delusion of ill will, which results from their impersonal conditioning, so there is no need to take it personally. You may even have compassion for them and their predicament, and respond with love, by mindfully listening to them, hearing them out, and neither confirming nor denying what they say. When you are mindful in this way, their ego, which is looking to feed on an argument or some drama, is not fed, allowing the situation to deescalate.

 

Nature

1. All of the various forces and causes at work that create the present moment. This includes the natural laws of the universe that cause all things to be as they are. These natural laws include the laws that govern how our mind, heart, and body react to external stimuli.

Synonym: impersonal, conditioning
Antonym: self-view, identification

2. In discussions about whether human behavior is “nature or nurture,” nature refers to the innate factors (such as genetics and biology) that determine a person’s personality and behavior.

 

Formless

The deepest essence and animating force of all forms. The source of all love, joy, peace, compassion, awareness, wisdom, creativity, and life.

Awakened people from all wisdom traditions who have experienced it, tell us it is eternal, unborn, and undying. It is infinite, permanent, unconditioned, and indestructible, yet it is not “something” because it is formless and nothing. It is vast spaciousness, great stillness, absolute silence, and radiant light. It is both our essential nature, and inconceivably greater than us. It is the part of us that is already perfect, complete, and whole. To experience it, is to know the unity and oneness of all forms, and all Life.

What it is cannot be understood conceptually, but can only be known and experienced directly. To know this reality the mind must be very quiet, very still, very tranquil, mindful, and free of all delusions. Thankfully, it is unimportant whether or not we believe in this reality. Knowing this reality has nothing to do with belief. All that is asked of us is that we be open-minded and willing to experience this reality should it present itself.

Synonyms: Being, Great Mystery, Great Spirit, God, Life, Soul, Source, True Self.

 

Control

The ability to dictate the course of events as relates to our body, our thoughts, our emotions, or other people or situations. We lack full control over anything. If we had full control we could stop our thoughts at will; decide to have only loving, joyful, and skillful thoughts; only feel emotions of peace, love, and bliss; and demand the body never age, become sick or injured, or die. But we don’t have full control, because these forms are impersonal; they are not who we are; they are “not me, not mine.” In truth, we have some influence over these forms because of our special relationship with them, but these forms are still gifts to us from Life, and they operate according to Life’s rules.

 

Influence

The ability to have an effect on a form. We have some ability to influence the health and well-being of our bodies, to generate specific thoughts, and to bring about certain emotions, but there are other laws of nature that are at work that prevent us from having full control over any of these forms. Since we lack control over them, it does not make sense to take any of these things personally. The body aging, getting injured, being sick, and dying are impersonal nature lawfully unfolding. The thoughts of ill-will, greed, and cruelty that arise in us are impersonal nature lawfully unfolding. The arising emotions of anger, hatred, fear, and lust, are impersonal nature lawfully unfolding. None of this is to be taken personally. When we do take it personally, or mistake it for who we are, we are lost in delusion. We know this because it causes us to suffer and act unskillfully in a way that harms ourselves and others.

 

Related Terms

Other related terms that you may want to better understand include the definition of the words “I” and “my.”

Summary points from talk

  • All forms are unstable, impermanent, changing, and dynamic.
  • By taking refuge in the truth that all forms are impermanent, we are better able to calmly accept the now as it is.
  • All forms are impersonal and uncontrollable, because they operate according to the impersonal natural laws of the universe.
  • By taking refuge in the truth that all forms are impersonal and conditioned, we are better able to peacefully accept the now as it is.
  • When we sincerely and fully accept the now as it is, our mind is free from the delusions of greed, aversion, and self-view.
  • Being present in acceptance of the here and now is how we live from our deepest essence and liberate the mind, heart, and body from its conditioning.

"Be here now" slogan

This week’s slogan is: “Be here now.” Review this slogan at least once a day and let it remind you to do the following frequently:

  1. Be mindful of your internal forms: thoughts, emotions, sensations, and habit-patterns. 
  2. See the impermanent and impersonal nature of these internal forms.
  3. Be mindful of external forms and their impermanent and impersonal nature.

For a deeper explanation of the “Be Here Now” slogan, and for images of it to use as a phone lock-screen or a computer screen saver, visit this article on the "Be here now" slogan.

For more details on working with slogans, read “How to use slogans to transform your life.”

Journal Assignment

1. First, read over “What to Do if Emotionally Triggered” below, and be prepared to follow those instructions should the need arise.

2. Do some mindfulness meditation with the anchor being bodily sensations until you feel grounded in the present moment.

3. As you do this activity, keep some of your attention on the sensations of the body. You want the body to feel calm, peaceful, and relaxed throughout this activity. If doing the activity triggers an emotional reaction, stop the activity and follow the steps for “What to do if emotionally triggered,” below.

4. Brainstorm some “easy,” challenging situations that caused you to become mildly upset or annoyed in the past, but that you can think about now without getting upset. Examples include:

  • Someone’s car alarm going off
  • A cloudy day when you wanted sunshine.
  • You accidentally break a plate, mug, or other inexpensive item.
  • You indulged in a harmless addiction, rather than take care of family responsibilities.
  • A friend says a joke that is slightly insulting to you, then chastises you for having no sense of humor when you protest it.

5. Investigate the impermanent and impersonal nature of each situation. Here are some examples of how to investigate and see the impersonal and impermanent in these situations, so you can accept them with more peace, patience, and equanimity:

* An unwanted or undesired situation arose (a car alarm, bad weather, a broken dish, and so on). Can you change the weather, stop someone else’s car alarm or unbreak a plate? Can your anger, upsetness, or complaining change what has already been done? Do these disturbing emotions add anything of value to the situation? Can you see that all situations and forms are dynamic, changing, and impermanent? Can you allow the car alarm, the bad weather, and the broken plate to be as they are without judging them or blaming them? Can you see that all things unfold according to natural, impersonal laws that are outside of your control? If so, then why take it personally? Why take on unnecessary and needless psychological suffering? How skillful would you be if you responded to the situation from a place of acceptance, peace, calm, love, and compassion? How much more wonderful would it be for you to respond to this situation from a place of acceptance, peace, calm, love, and compassion?

* You knowingly or unknowingly did something unskillful that hurt yourself or others that you regret. Can you see that deep down, your true self wishes to be happy, peaceful, content, wise, and skillful? That your true self wants to live in peace and harmony with all life? Can you see your good, wholesome, and skillful intentions?

Knowing your honorable and noble intentions, can you also notice that there are other forces at play that drive and determine the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of the mind and body? There are impersonal forces such as biology and genetics that determine how the mind and body work, and the conditioning you received from all of your life experiences. You may be able to pick what movie you go to watch, but you really don’t know what you are going to see until you see it. In the same way, most of the experiences that happened to you, that conditioned you, you had little to no control over what happened? Can you see that if you have little control over it, then it too is impersonal?

It may seem paradoxical, but the more you realize how little control you have, the more control you gain over the mind, heart, and body. This is because, when you see the thoughts, emotions, sensations, and habit patterns as the impersonal phenomena they are, you stop judging, condemning, and beating yourself up over them. The ego believes punishment will help you behave better. Well, how has that been working for you? If you are like everyone else, such self-condemnation worsens the situation for yourself and everyone around you.

What happens if you try self-love, self-forgiveness, and self-compassion? What happens is you no longer are aversive to unskillful thoughts, feelings, sensations, and habit patterns? What happens if you get curious about them, and experience them out of love and compassion for yourself and all life? Does this start to shift those old habit patterns that have kept you mired in unskillful behavior? Try it out and see what happens.

* A person “knowingly” did something to personally hurt, annoy, or upset you. Can you see that like you, this person wants to be happy, peaceful, and loved? What delusions may have been operational in them to cause them to do the offending behavior? If delusions were operational, then it follows they are imprisoned by their own egoic conditioning and lawfully acting out these impersonal force of nature. Can you see that? Can you see that their behavior has nothing to do with you, but rather with their own mental states and conditioning? So why take it personally?

Does you getting angry, upset, or vengeful; or conversely getting sad, despondent, frustrated, or depressed improve the situation? Do these emotional reactions make you feel good?

Let the wisdom in you see their behavior as impermanent and impersonal. Let the wisdom in you see their behavior without blame, judgment, or condemnation. Let the wisdom in you know their clouds of ego have temporarily blocked their radiant sun, their true essence of love, peace, compassion, joy, and wisdom that is as fundamental to them as it is to you.

What to Do if Emotionally Triggered

  1. Place your attention on feeling the emotion that has arisen.
  2. Know that it is trapped energy that has arisen.
  3. Do not think about the feeling or make a story about it. Don’t allow the feeling to become thinking. Keep all of your attention on the feeling.
  4. Accept that, right now, this is what you feel. Can you be OK with the fact that right now, this is what you feel? Invite all of your muscles to be as calm and relaxed as possible.
  5. Stay with the feeling until it goes away on its own. This process helps you build the courage to feel unpleasant emotions. More importantly, it helps you to release trapped energies from the body.

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