Stuff + Impermanence + Solitude + Happiness

Tuesday I felt the symptoms of a cold coming on. It was inevitable. My wife was ill. My grandson was ill. One of my staff spent a great deal of time in my office and she was ill.

It is what it is. Like any other cold, I’ll get through this one.

It’s the thought process that takes place when I’m ill. I become more quiet, more reflective. When I become these things irritability is close by.

In the Buddhist philosophy, there is a concept called the “Middle Way” or the “Middle Path.” In the Noble Eight-fold Path, the Middle Way is considered a golden mean between self-indulgence and self-mortification. I find myself as the days and weeks go on not so much losing my way but straying from this path. I find myself not taking care of myself in a manner that will allow me to achieve and maintain optimum physical and emotional health. I know I am not alone in this struggle.


As I write, I look casually around my office and I see clutter. Most of the time this clutter provides more comfort than it does stress. I struggle with this middle path. That’s not 100% true. I struggle like most people with maintaining the Middle Path.  because when I clean and organize my office, I enjoy that result as well. The process not so much. Yet I know this process is important in helping me keep the balance for which I strive every day.

There is a built-in bookcase above my desk which contains items which define me. There is a small collection of books. Their importance varies. Several years ago I donated a large number of books to our public library. My reading is now done on my Kindle. There are fountain pen inks in varying shades and colors, more coffee mugs than one person should be allowed to own, three small Buddha statues, a collection of seashells which were given to me as a gift when my grandmother died and my Gumby, Pokey and Blockhead figure. For those of you who don’t know who those characters are, I feel sad for you.


I reflect on another Buddhist principle which is impermanence. A spiritual master who lived in Tibet in the early twentieth century, Dza Mura Tulku, said, “Why do you look so upset? How many times have I told you that phenomena and beings are impermanent? Even the Buddha had to leave the world.” When I reflect on these words I find myself returning to that Middle Path. I find the balance which I need in my life returning. I remind myself the discomfort of these cold symptoms is impermanent. I remind myself of the dark, cold weather and days bearing abbreviated daylight and sunlight are also impermanent. It is these thoughts which bring happiness back into my life.

There are times when I sit quietly in my office. No one else is home. I am done for the day seeing clients. I look around my office and thoughts begin to quietly populate the small open spaces of time like water finding the path of least resistance as it rolls up on the beach and retracts back into the sea. I remember why I do what I do for a living and for the people who benefit, both clients and family. This quiet, this solitude makes it all worthwhile.


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