Nothing lasts forever
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE - Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2018 - 12:00am

I am the type of guy who can really get into things that interest me. And when I do, I like to get really involved. I like to totally immerse myself in the universe of my interests. I learn a lot each time.

I have seen myself give my all to many projects I have committed myself to. As a musician, songwriter, singer, performer, producer, arranger (sometimes), I am 100-percent present in the work. I still know every detail of what went into almost all the recordings I have been involved in. I still remember them even decades after.

As a teacher, I totally immerse myself in the subjects I teach. I try to get to know the lessons inside and out. I anticipate questions that may be asked by looking at the material from many angles. I try to present them in the best way possible.

As a photographer, performer, writer, I do the same. It is not so much about being meticulous. It is about savoring and being one with the experience.

No wonder I get a high with almost every class, show, concert, exhibit, or lecture I do.

Last month, I was preoccupied with Eto na, Musikal nAPO, the hit theater production with a story that revolves around APO’s music. I was totally into the present, as I watched it several times. We have all had this happen with certain experiences.

I used to think that I felt good about these moments because they were special moments. Don’t get me wrong: they are special moments. What really makes them special, though, is not because they were extraordinary in themselves but because I paid attention to them. It is I who made them special. The power to make them extraordinary, wonderful or magical is inside of me. In a sense one might say I determine and shape my own experience. It is I who decides what experience to make “special.”

Before the event happens, you prepare yourself and you have expectations. You do what you have to do. Then it happens and it feels like you are going through it. And then it is over. That’s how experiences go. And for every peak experience, there is that depressing, sad feeling that follows.

My son just got home from a trek to the base camp of Mount Everest. When he arrived yesterday, he was still on a high and brimming with stories. He sat me and Lydia down and excitedly told us about the daily experiences they had during the ascent to the mountain and the descent. He was still on a high. There was so much he wanted to share. He definitely had a peak experience to brag about.

The next day, he was back to work. Back to reality, so to speak.

From the sublime experience of trekking up a mountain, he was back in the ordinary world where he must drive himself to work, earn his keep and attend to responsibilities and duties. That’s how it is.

It’s the same for sad, traumatic experiences. They can frighten, upset and horrify. They can really affect us. Yes, they can be considered peak experiences too. And thankfully, like everything, they too eventually end.

When you strip experiences of labels like “happy,” or “sad,” etc. and just look at them dispassionately as mere events that come and go, it is easier to deal with them after. I am glad I learned that early. Nothing lasts forever.

Writers like Ken Wilber like to call experiences “waves of forms” that appear and disappear. They never stay. They are phenomena that arise and dissipate eventually to give way to newer forms that will arise. That’s why a lot of meditators refer to life as a series of illusions that appear and die. The reason for meditating is to awaken to this reality and get a sense of who we are and what is happening around us. Instead of the fleeting experience, we focus on the one who experiences it. There is an untapped universe inside us to explore.

Accepting the impermanence of things will save us from getting attached to them. We encounter and experience them and move on. We must not get so caught up in the fleeting experiences that we lose a sense of the present. Every new moment becomes old after awhile, and it too passes away very quickly. From the time you read one sentence in this essay and get to the next one, some things may have already changed. That’s how it is.

As I said a while ago, the power to label any experience or “wave of form” is entirely up to us. Robert Pirsig, the writer of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote that, “The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.”

I think of my son. He did go up a challenging mountain. By his own admission, he said it was hard, punishing, difficult, dangerous in many ways. And yet he enjoyed it so much that he is already planning a more challenging climb to another mountain in Nepal.

One might say it is no surprise he had a positive experience climbing Mount Everest because he is already a positive person to start with. That is true.

But that quote implies more than just being born with a positive attitude. It is suggesting that inside us is the key to practically everything. 

Experiences can be hard, easy, wonderful, awful, terrifying, relaxing, etc. They can be anything we want them to be. What is hard is not really the experiences themselves but having the right attitude and mindset to deal with them.

EXPERIENCES LIFE MUSIC
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