If you are meditator familiar with Buddhist traditions, impermanence must be a familiar word. Called Anithya in Sanskrit, this is one of the pillars in Buddhism. To be honest, I was not comfortable to discuss about impermanence back in my childhood. We are afraid of death, thus avoid this discussion. Later on, in-fact, my attitude to impermanence has been drastically changed. You know why? The deeper understanding into impermanence have tremendously empowered me to be bold and comfortable in many ways.
While I was continuing my meditation on impermanence, (i.e. Anithya Meditation), recently, I have found a supporting scientific explanation, ironically though, in a Netflix documentary, ‘One Strange Rock‘. (Ha…ha, please don’t laugh at me:). I always get fascinated by the wisdom moments occur at these cross roads of science, spirituality and entertainment. Ok, here comes my exciting insight.
When things become too familiar to us, it loses its magical power to shock our brain and awaken our wisdom faculty. Sun rises and sets, flowers bloom and die, pets leave us (i.e. pass away) at some point, thus we all live in this cycle of birth and death, the impermanence. But our minds are busy, hence blindfolded to get into grips with this phenomenon of impermanence.
That’s where the meditation comes to help. When I sit on my meditation cushion and direct my mindful exploration to expand over impermanence, it takes me through complex phenomena; the journey of an oxygen atom, food particles, cells, organs, and body, the coexistence of all these to support my existence.
Let me explain a bit; with every inhale, oxygen atoms enter our body, they travel through lungs and veins to every cell in the body. Then they die (i.e. being transformed to carbon dioxide etc.). Food particles enter our body and go though digestive tracks. Then they die, as they are being transformed to nutrients. Our body cells, absorb both oxygen and nutrients and grow and eventually die. This cycle of birth and death takes place at every level, from atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs etc. The birth and death is common to all of them.
It doesn’t stop there, death leads to birth. Old dead cells are being replaced by new cells, same with tissues. Then there is another facet which is more exciting; decaying dead body gives birth to infestation of insects, worms and micro-organisms. Tissues and bones turn into minerals, that are being consumed by deep root systems of the plants, and produce flowers and fruits. That become food for other living beings including humans again.
Death is a nature’s cycle to sustain all of us, from plants to living beings. It promotes inter-dependance, and refreshes the life. When we recognise this nature of impermanence, it dissipate our fear of death, and empower us to live with reality and respect.