Bodhi Mind Reflection

Lessons of Impermanence

Thomas Haupt (Fa Hao 法皓)

At the end of this past year, the agency that I had worked at for the past 25 years, decided to restructure the leadership team in response to an anticipated shortfall in the States budget and the diminished revenue that our agency would be getting in 2021. Even though I was very aware of the fact that like everything in life, a job is impermanent, I had always viewed my employment as stable, predictable and likely something that I would continue to stay at and eventually retire from, however on January 1st, I found myself unemployed.  

One of the invaluable teachings of the Buddha is the lesson of impermanence. In these last couple of years of my studies and practice, I have become more and more sensitized of this fact and how prevalent impermanence is.  All sentient beings in fact experience impermanence each moment of their lives simply in the act of breathing in and out. Change is all around us, ever present and part of the natural cycle of both tangible “things’ and intangible events.

Instead of getting upset about losing my job or being resentful towards the agency or my boss, I saw this change as a unique chance to re-examine my personal and professional direction in following a path of right livelihood. Losing my job has been in fact a powerful and poignant lesson in impermanence and the inevitable change in conditions that are in all of our lives. Practicing Buddhism gave me the tools to better respond in a way that was not reactive, hysterical or to freak out about being told that my position was being eliminated. Buddhim has shown me that this condition for me was in fact part of a natural course of events that I was to experience at this specific time. Unemployment has given me the opportunity to contemplate and reflect about my next steps professionally and what course I will take personally in my pursuit of a path of “right Livelihood”.

I am grateful for the years that I had at my job and equally thankful that this inevitable change and opportunity presented itself and is now before me. Five years ago I might have seen losing my job as a failure and setback. Today I see losing my job as part of the larger natural cycle of arising and ceasing.

I take blessings in my family (especially my wife) that they have been so supportive of me during this time. I see Buddha nature in each of them on a daily basis as they exercise patience, kindness and compassion towards me. In my daily practice, I have begun to understand that life is a series of moments that we intersect with and respond to and that to be mindful if only for a minute, we can still have the opportunity of being “one minute Buddha”. Just as the sunrise or the sunset has different degrees of spectacular, those displays of brilliance incrementally build and fade and produce not even the same colors that they did the previous moment. This exercise in inevitable change and knowing that impermanence is everywhere brings me happiness and hope and for that I am truly grateful.