Passing is what follows arising, it is the very essence of impermanence, the sun rises in the morning and passes into dusk. Every object has its shadow, with every birth there is a death, sadness is contained in every smile, yet we get caught up in the illusion that what is will always be and we feel a sense of dissatisfaction when this turned out not to be true. We expect that love should last forever, instead of treating it like the most honoured guest that visits our lives, we feel anger and fear at the thought that it might pass, when we should be wholeheartedly committed to being present with the actual sensations and emotions of that wonderful state. The fact that it will pass should make us more focused on treasuring every moment that we get to be in its presence rather than treating at as an everlasting constant that can be taking for granted.
Life gives us plenty of practice in the art of letting things pass, and it is far better to get used to this feeling on the small things first rather than letting the big thing steamroller over you. Our entire day is a series of things arising and passing, our tiredness passes with a good nights sleep, our energy passes with a long days work, hunger rises until it is satisfied with food, a thirst is quenched with water. We oscillate between wanting to rest and work, to lounge or sprint, to move closer to people or put distance between us, we desire a thousand things during the day and each desire passes whether you have satisfied it or not. Energy always wants to move, to be in motion, and we can constantly notice it in our own body, emotion is just energy in motion, it does not want to be trapped or hung on to, it wants to arise and pass.
And we should be grateful for that passing, during the day I can easily imagine a couple of dozen different meals I would like to have that night, and with the best will in the world I can only have one dinner. It is always a decision I enjoy making, comparing one meal with another, visualising the light taste of fish against a hearty Chilli, a roast against the salad, how much effort I wanted to put in, whether it is healthy and happy for me, how satisfied I will be afterwards. Reality gives us the gift of impermanence and allow these desires to pass.
As, if every single one of those desires that combine to make a single decision lingered and did not pass, if when you sat down for dinner you desired with equal measure every meal that you had imagined eating, instead of enjoying a meal in front of you, you would be filled with regret that it was not every other one, you would be lost in the favours of every meal you were not having. It is only by forgetting your other desires that you are able to concentrate on the single choice you decided on, by letting them pass you give yourself the bandwidth to retune to the moment and be present with the meal in front of you. If only we could enjoy the company of others with the same single minded attention all the time, and not get lost in comparison to how we feel when we are with other people or our expectations of what should be happening and memories of past regret.
And that wonderful ability to be present with the moment rather than being lost in the past or the future is available to all of us at any time. It might seem very obvious in the example of eating, and that is because of the nature of eating is that it is a very physical activity, it brings us directly to the world of sensation. Whilst taste can be one the most pleasurable sensations of them all, it is not a sense which is in constant use, so we recognise the contrast clearly between the times when it is completely in our consciousness and when it is not, it is sharper because of it. It rises and passes in a way that sight, sound, touch and our thought sense does not, they are always on to some degree when we are awake and conscious. The unique gift of smell and taste is that so clearly passes even within a single bite of food there is a crescendo of peak taste, if you put a piece of chocolate in your mouth, it is initially just a solid mass, it is only as it melts that it releases the taste and then slowly the intensity fades.
This lesson that taste teaches us is directly transferable to our other senses and experiences, it is just as true in all cases, we simply have to pay more attention to them and become aware of how they arise and pass away in exactly the same manner. When we meditate as a beginner, the practice is simply to build concentration, we can do this through the simple practice of putting our thumb and finger together and concentrating on the sensation of where they touch, or we can be a little more Zen-like and close our eyes and concentrate on our breath as the object of concentration, we change the sense we are concentrating on from an external touch sensation to a internal one. However we might mediate, in essence we are always just concentrating on a sense and there is nothing more mystical than that going on, and whichever way you want to concentrate on a sense is just as valid as any other, though it is useful to bear in mind that is what is going on, whether you are using mindfulness, walking meditation, insight training or a flow activity.
What the knowledge does is provide a framework to understand what is going on, which develops a deeper understanding. Just be aware that there is a body-mind is useful, that your body and mind are completely linked and two halves of the same thing, for every physical sensation there is a mirror emotional component. When we cut our finger there is a physical reality and then a separate feeling of hurt, knowing that these are two different senses at work, two component parts, the touch and thought senses, means that you can separate them and treat them differently if you want.
By using the senses, we are able to turn knowledge into experience and it is always the senses that we turned back to in meditation. They are the gateway for all experience, even and especially the experience of objectively observing your thought sense, or to tie ourselves up even further, observing the observation of our thoughts. It is the other senses that give you the practice to be able to do so, the taste sense is the easiest gateway to walk through, and that is why mindfulness is so powerful, it gives people the first experience of being objective rather than the default subjective point of view that so many of us experience. It is amazing even to be at the beginning of the path of understanding that there is a different point of view to be experienced but even this will pass just as it arose.