Saturday, December 17, 2005

Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again

Who moved my lasting perception? MUKUL SHARMA The Economic Times TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2005
In Who Stole My Cheese? author Dr Spencer Johnson tells us to keep the following things in mind:
  • change happens (they keep moving the cheese);
  • anticipate change (get ready for the cheese to move);
  • monitor change (smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old);
  • adapt to change quickly (the quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese);
  • change (move with the cheese);
  • enjoy change! (savour the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese);
  • be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again (they keep moving the cheese).

People familiar with the teaching of the Buddha will know that Johnson is, in fact, only reiterating the Four Noble Truths:

  1. Life is suffering. That is, all things are impermanent, including living things like ourselves.
  2. Suffering is due to attachment. Because we and the world are imperfect, impermanent, and not separate, we forever cling to things, each other and ourselves in a mistaken effort at permanence by not fully understanding the impermanence of things.
  3. Attachment can be overcome. Meaning letting go of clinging, hatred and ignorance and the full acceptance of imperfection, impermanence and interconnectedness.
  4. There is a path for accomplishing this. The middle way between materialism and idealism.

What we fail to realise is that we don’t really require bestsellers or Buddhism to accomplish this because at one level we all routinely and automatically do it without even thinking. Consider bread. It’s always there in the house and we almost regard it a permanent fixture, yet if its consumption is not monitored it’s going to finish and there won’t be fresh bread to eat. We’ve adapted to this change so thoroughly and perfectly that neither is there any sense of clinging or suffering involved nor some fancy esoteric path to be taken to overcome attachment to it.

If such an important lesson of existence can effortlessly be learnt from so humble and integral part of our lives as wheat, what stops us from incorporating the same sense of enjoyment in other forms of renewal and change? It’s simply this: houses, jobs, relationships and spouses are perceived as being incrementally harder to replace than bread. So it turns out that perception is the greatest enemy of freedom after all, and as soon as we learn that it too is not permanent either, the Middle Way comes naturally.

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