Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Life's Not Fair and Other Wisdom

My friend who works with me told me she was sad. "There is just so much suffering out there." Her job is to welcome enquiring families looking to transition their loved ones to an assisted living place. Listening to her stories for the week, I was struck by the cruelty of life for some of us, particularly towards the end. They are 59, 86, 45 , 61, each with his/her own tragedy,  a massive stroke, Parkinson's, a bad fall, Alzheimer's. Different blows, same devastating results: body, broken; mind, failing; dreams, halted; savings, wiped out . . . 

There is no telling which one of us will be dealt a bad card, and when. 

Meanwhile, appreciating what is being given, and could be taken away, any moment. The ability to walk. The pleasure of a perfect spring day in San Francisco. The satisfaction from meaningful work. The joy of friendships. The safety of a good mind. The sanctuary of my own home. The energy of youth. 

And most of all gratitude for the sinking realization of impermanence, and the gift of wisdom.


  1. Great reminder Marguerite. Some of the greatest times of my spiritual growth resulted from anguishing experience; improvement in lifestyle and health from episodes of illness; appreciation for what is from the acceptance of mortality.

  2. Thanks for this post, Marguerite. Thursdays are the day I spend four hours volunteering in a residential hospice - my weekly reminder of the fragility of life. Yesterday, two of our nine patients died - four in the past week. Today I helped make up the beds for the new people who will come to die with us. It's incredibly moving work and it forms an important part of my Buddhist practice. So many lessons - of being in the present moment, of impermanence, compassion, joy.

  3. What a great message you have written about. Sometimes life seems very unfair but I have to constantly stay grateful for the things that I have been given.

    I have been given a second chance and I am grateful for what I have been through. My gratitude list for today would go a little something like this.
    1)being in college
    2)having a wonderful family
    3)finding the Dharma
    4)the internet
    5)being able to help people that need help.

    thanks for reminding me about gratitude..

  4. JDB, yes, suffering and the realization of impermanence as gate to liberation . . .

  5. Katherine, thank you for serving the dying. Such beautiful work, such great practice!

  6. Taoistopher, thank you. Yes, much to be thankful for, and yet the mind's first impulse is often to look in the other direction, for what is not working according to our wishes . . . We just need to be reminded often to not take anything - and I mean anything - for granted!

  7. Great post Marguerite. I'm going through my own realization of impermanence right now, since my wife has decided to separate from me. It's quite difficult and I've been very sad lately, but I believe this is the perfect opportunity for me to grow. Thank you for your insight.

  8. So sorry about your loss, Jonathan. And happy that you can find refuge in your practice. I find that the hardest times are also the ones when my practice gets stronger.

    May you find peace, and ease, in the midst of your suffering.