The origins of this well known phrase have been attributed to various sources including King Solomon, a Middle Eastern folk tale, and a speech by Abraham Lincoln. Today, we most often use these words to provide comfort in times of distress- the loss of a loved one, financial crisis, personal strife and confusion. “You’re having a hard time right now? This too Shall pass.” But these words can offer more than comfort, they can be a wakeup call.
Life and all its experiences are transient. We sell ourselves short and ignore the true power and vitality of this phrase if we use it simply as a way to endure certain moments. We cause ourselves suffering by attempting to prolong the experiences we label as positive (like when we continue to eat something tasty after we are full) or to blunt or speed up the experiences we find difficult (like when we count the ceiling squares to make a boring meeting go more quickly). True vitality lies in planting one’s feet firmly in this moment, whatever it brings, with an open heart. We can’t do that if we are busy wanting this moment to go on forever or wishing it would hurry up and end.
The CNN link pasted below, will take you to a time-lapse video of Buddhist monks creating and then dismantling an intricate mandala out of colored sand. I invite you to watch it with a spirit of curiosity about how you can embrace transience as a path to the vitality of the present moment.
Whatever today brings: a pain, a joy, a dullness, let’s challenge ourselves to embrace it fully, knowing that, like the monk’s sand art, the true beauty in this moment lies in our engagement with its process. I’m going to start by trying to clean my cat’s litter box without holding my breath and chanting, “this too shall pass.”