As a child, I once found a few meters of a movie reel. There were hundreds of frames in it that were almost like each other. When I asked my father why it had so many similar pictures, he pointed out the subtle differences in each of them and explained how they looked in motion, when they rolled at a certain speed. He showed me the ceiling fan to further explain the idea. When moving, I could not see the three blades, which appeared like a disc.
Life changes every moment.
When I start writing this blog, from this sentence to a paragraph later, the sun has moved, the Earth has rotated, the hands of the watch have moved forward, and with each word I am keying in, a different time is recorded in my computer. In several mobile cameras, the time of a picture click is also recorded, and you can see a fraction-of-a-second difference between two pictures clicked one after the other, even immediately.
So, everything is changing. No two moments are the same. The next moment is different from the earlier one in a thousand ways. Some changes we can notice, but most go unnoticed. But what changes most, and swiftly, is our mind. Every moment, a new thought arises and creates another thought. Our mind wanders without ever stopping – either shuffling through memories from the past or imagining the future. You won’t even realize this jumping around of your attention unless you try to focus it on the present moment. Try to mind your breath and you will realize how difficult it is to count even ten breaths without being interrupted by some or the other thought.
Gautam Buddha declared impermanence, suffering and the illusion of “I” as the three marks of existence. Whatever exists is ever-changing. The air we inhale is different from what was inhaled in the earlier breath, the gas burning in the kitchen is different from what was burning a moment earlier, and the words and pictures on the TV screen change every moment. Even our body is continuously changing – hair and nails are growing, skin is being shed; even blood cells are dying and being born anew every 120 days, and so are bones.
We are caught in an eight-fold net – I like this and do not like that, I am attached to what I like, and averse to what I don’t like, I want to possess what I like and avoid what I don’t like. People should praise me, they must not criticize me, love me not hate me. Examine any moment of your life – notice that you are either pursuing pleasure, fame, and gain, or avoiding pain, insignificance, loss, or blame.
Now ponder upon who this “I” is. Where is the child you once were? The teenager! The newly wed! When all that has changed, why are your likes and dislikes not changing? Why do your fears as a child still scare you? Why do your old attachments still bother you? Why is a story always running in your head where you are the protagonist? And why is this story always sad – one where you are a victim of all that is wrong and bad around you, including both people and circumstances?
Live in the present moment.
What is past will never return. What is in the future is nothing but your imagination – mostly bad and exaggerated. Throw out the frustrations with every exhalation and draw in hope and optimism with every new breath. There is no other way that life would have been than what it is in “this moment,” and whatever it would be, will take birth from what it is at “this moment” only. Look around carefully – whatever you need is already here. Learn to read the signs and follow them.