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 The Characteristics of Life on Earth


Contemplating these characteristics of all things in life on earth helps us to better understand our present situation. For me, taking into consideration these ideas normalized the universal challenges that I saw everyone experiencing.

Consider the difficulties we experience as human beings. All people and things on earth have these characteristics:

  1. Transience. By looking at your life, reflect:
  • Everything in our world—people, objects, reputation, everything on earth—is transient and changeable by its very nature.
  • Things aren’t solid—although they appear to be that way—everything changes moment-by-moment. Some examples: a person, a mountain, a car, or a flower. Reflect that all these seemingly solid and independent things—ourselves and other phenomena—are illusory—that means that everything exists by depending on causes, conditions, parts, and a consciousness (our minds), which conceives and labels them.
    • As any of the parts change—the causes and conditions that brought them about—then the person (our self concept or personal identities), place or thing changes. It is NOT solid, fixed or unchangeable. There is nothing that exists without depending on causes, conditions, or other factors.
    • This truth allows everything to change, grow and evolve. Things are really more like a rainbow, or a reflection in a lake, or a mirage, or dense clouds passing through the sky, rather than the solid and fixed way they seem to exist.
  • Our refusal to accept this reality causes us pain.
  • In your heart, try to accept the transient nature of all things.

 Ken McCloud, in his book Wake Up To Your Life speaks about impermanence:

The end of accumulation is dispersion.

The end of building is ruin.

The end of meeting is parting.

The end of birth is death. So, consider holding onto nothing.

  1. Unsatisfactory conditions. Not everything is 100 percent wonderful in our lives. We experience:

Unsatisfactory situations of pain and suffering, both physical and mental.

  • Happy situations that are unsatisfactory because they don’t provide lasting happiness. In addition, they change and disappear.

  • Think of the act of eating. It seems to give us pleasure but as we keep eating we get more and more uncomfortable. At first, we experience the pain of hunger, so eating seems like happiness. The pain of hunger stops as the pain of overeating begins. If eating were inherently pleasureful—the more we ate the better we would feel—but this isn’t true.

  • The unsatisfactory situation of having a body that ages, gets sick, and dies, and a mind that is under the control of disturbing attitudes and actions.


 The Five Daily Remembrances—The Sufferings of Human Beings

One of the wonderful things I discovered in 12-Step programs was the practice of daily spiritual quiet time and reflection. The programs provide suggestions for achieving a deep personal and spiritual transformation.

By taking time each day to reflect on my life, I learned to be a gardener to my own mind and life. I was able to uproot harmful patterns and nurture skillful ones. You can do the same.

Discover transformative wisdom in the Meditations section. Pay a visit to the Resources 2 area of the Web site for books on meditation, mindfulness, and on spiritual cognitive therapy. These resources give amazing wisdom about how to understand our lives.

Considering these ideas, helps provide the wisdom of perspective about our human journey.

1.      I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old. Think about someone you know and the changes you have seen him or her go through as they age. Think about yourself—growing from a baby to a child into a teenager and onto young adulthood to being a mature adult. Just observe that you keep the same body—but it gradually changes all of the time.

2.      I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape having ill-health. Remember a time when you or a loved one has been sick—colds, flu, allergies, aches, pains, muscle strains, and injuries. Notice that frequently these transform naturally into well-being, and over time, into ill-health.

3.      I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death. Bear in mind—through personal experience or watching the news—that everyone, rich or poor, famous or unknown—at all different ages, leaves this earth at some point. This process is natural for all things on earth: “To everything there is a season under heaven.”

4.      All that is dear to me, and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. Everything we encounter—family and friends, careers, beautiful possessions, and even our youthful, strong bodies—everything is of the nature to change.

5.      My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand. Consider most important what you GIVE to the world: your love, kindness, support and encouragement to others.

(Adapted from The Heart of The Buddha’s Teachings, by Thich Nhat Hanh, page 124.)


Life can be a dramatic demonstration of these principles of self-awareness and self-change. Even though I felt that my depression, self-hatred, and compulsive nature was unchangeable, it wasn’t.

As I changed my thoughts, attitudes and actions, gradually everything transformed into well-being and health: balanced thinking, freedom from compulsion, self love, and gratitude. This same process can work for you too!

I found if I live ethically, my mind calms down. I can concentrate better. I’m less agitated and guilty. I like others and myself better.

Including the spiritual component in weight management helps my motivation, in that I take a long-term view of emotional growth and physical well-being. I deeply care about others and myself. As I become healthier on all levels, my relationships with others improve. Through the practice of compassionate self-care skills, I achieve my highest spiritual aspirations.

What my spiritual journey showed me was that we are all individuals. What works well for one person may not work for another. I celebrate the fact that so many people’s lives have benefited from so many different faiths.