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Principles of Awakeness

Journal for Principles of Awareness class

Published onFeb 20, 2018
Principles of Awakeness

On impermanence

Initially I set out to dedicate my pubpub post to this theme that for some reason had been on my mind this week after we had our session on stillness. (It took me a long time to make that decision, I was not really sure how it would go down. Nor was I sure whether I would be brave enough to pull this off. This has been also on my mind. How to write about something that is so difficult…Does this need a trigger warning?) I had meant to mention a really interesting app that I discovered this past weekend, called WeCroak, that seemed to fit into the theme. To paraphrase the many articles that I found about it, it is loosely based on a Bhutanese saying, that “one does not know happiness, unless contemplating death five times a day”. It sends, at random intervals throughout the day, a notification to your phone reminding you of your own mortality - much like a modern-day version of the memento mori in 17th century paintings, a skull placed in a still life, a silent reminder of the impermanence of life. The idea is that a gentle nudge like that might put things into perspective once in a while. It resonated with me, as a playful intellectual exercise…

And just as I had started to write this all out last night, my inbox pinged and another kind of notification arrived: from school. We were informed in an email about very sad news that one of our classmates had just passed away. He was set to graduate with us in May.

Since we received this message, ripple effects of grief, disbelief and shock have been going through our system and community. And with it, an opening of hearts, an outpouring of compassion and love for the friends and family. However, this is not the appropriate place for public condolences - there will be better times and occasions.

All I want to say for now is this: the reminders come in mysterious ways, sometimes as push notification, and sometimes in what feels like a veritable emotional sledgehammer…

Aashka Dave: Reading this makes me interested in paying more attention to my senses! Last week (when the weather was slightly nicer for a day), I went on a walk and found a random quiet spot with trees to sit for a while — it was so nice to sit and fully notice the things around me. Have you found that you’ve been becoming more aware via your senses since writing this post?
Carlos Paiva: After two months, how do you feel the effect of the notifications? Does it still stops you and put you into some (even slightly) reflection mode? I love the idea of the app, but I find that if you put yourself in a ‘reader’ attitude in life (like you are in a constant dialogue with it, specially if you experiment with a I-it / I-Thou attitude) you start finding similar messages quite often, and in a more random way, which should be more effective (except that you already are in a open mind attitude, and the surprise effect of the app has this advantage in case you are not in that attitude mode).
Uyanga Bayar: @Holly. Thanks for asking! Actually, very much so. Whenever I get that notification on the phone, I cannot help but pause for a second and feel grateful to have a living body and a mind to be aware of it. That brief pause in time I find does something quite similar to meditation.
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