There are about a metric ton of folks attributed with ‘first’ saying that “The only thing in life that doesn’t change is that all things change.” So it is always very fascinating to me that most humans seem to work very hard to deny what is generally accepted as a fundamental aspect and truth about this life:
There is nothing in this life that does not change.
Anything that comes into existence will, eventually, pass from existence.
Everything you know will shift over time; some things so dramatically that the notion of your knowing them at all will come undone.
Everyone who is born into this world will depart from it.
The list can and does roll on longer and further than the mind can perceive and, usually, much longer than the mind cares to think upon it (usually not much more than a few minutes, by general account).
We do not like to think about impermanence and the fact that things change. We don’t like thinking about it when we meet new people who become friends. We do not like thinking about it when we fall in love. We do not like thinking about it when we take a new job or buy a new car, or engage in any other act of having and enjoying something or someone.
The reason this thought is part of Ngondo practice rests in the reality that it is this denial and refusal to accept “WHAT IS” that causes us distress, anguish, depression, and pretty much any other afflictive emotion.
We hone in on the reality of impermanence and, as soon as our mind grasps it, fling it away, bury it in deep places inside us and pretend as hard as we can that it will be different for us. Somehow, we will be the one who doesn’t age, or the one who has the ‘forever love’, or the one who has the perfect life, perfect job, perfect [insert thing or person or experience here] forever.
The refusal to accept the reality of impermanence causes pain and suffering; Dukkha in the Sanskrit tongue (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha) because it is difficult for us to see change as a positive thing, as an opportunity to experience new and different things. It is very difficult for us to see change as other than a loss or as something that constantly removes things we enjoy from our experience.
Ngondo practice is referred to as ‘the four thoughts that cause the mind to turn’ — the implication being that thinking about these things themselves is the means by which to cultivate a different perspective than the one that brings unhappiness, pain, and suffering.
This part of the Ngondo practice, this second of the four thoughts, is intended to offer the opening by and through which one might begin contemplating that there is a life for each of us wherein change is a beautiful opportunity to explore and experience different things in life – things we might not have the chance to ever experience otherwise.
And that this ‘other life’ is something we can actively access any time we wish to do so, and, with diligence, can remain within by retraining our perspective, our thoughts, and becoming willing to see and accept things as they are, and to delight in them as they are… all the more so for knowing they WILL change and this moment may be the only one you have in which to do so.
The interesting thing about this practice is that, if you do it long enough, you eventually reach a point where you begin to see that all experience in life has the potential to deliver experience and exploration that were unknown prior to their manifestation in our lives.
Further, that the only thing that distinguishes a ‘bad’ experience from a ‘good’ experience is us – our perspective on how to label and categorize it, our decision to desire “good things” and be unwilling to endure “bad things” (as if our decisions and perspectives here actually have weight against the reality of WHAT IS!).
The ultimate point and purpose of all Ngondo practice is to teach ourselves by ourselves that by the simple act of seriously and calmly considering four thoughts, we can dramatically alter our lives for the better.