In Buddhism, the three marks of existence are shared by all human beings and include Anitya, Dukkha and Anatma, which form the third limb of the Four Noble Truths.
Explore the concepts below to cultivate a more calm, accepting relationship with your life through the joys and sorrows it has to offer.
Anitya (or anicca)
Life is impermanent, transitory and in a constant state of flux. If you feel pain, sadness, loss, anxiety, stress, heartbreak or fatigue, all these feelings are not permanent and will soon pass. The same applies to happiness, it is not a perpetual state of being and will be punctuated by periods of low energy. Just because we feel down today, doesn’t mean it will be the same tomorrow and everyday thereafter.
Everything changes on a daily basis and no two days will be identical, which makes the present moment all the more significant. Embrace change along with life’s joys and sorrows. Feel and observe your suffering, let the emotions pass, but do not attach yourself to them. Release the belief that life should be a certain way and open yourself up to the uncertain.
All beings must experience suffering and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable suffering of illness, aging, and death. Life by its nature is difficult, flawed, and imperfect and our unwillingness to accept this causes the most suffering. There are 3 nuances to the concept of dukkha that involve the physical and mental suffering associated with birth, old age and death; the anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are changing; and a basic, all-pervasive suffering.
You may experience dukkha because you get what you don’t want, or vice versa, and are thus unable to avoid difficult and painful situations. Suffering also comes about when you are not able to hold onto what is desirable; it is an encompassing sense that things never measure up to your expectations and standards, which only feeds frustration.
The experience of dissatisfaction will persist when happiness is dependent on conditions that are beyond our control. Exploring the truth that creates secure, long-lasting happiness is the way forward while realizing that life is not meant to be pain-free. Accept the imperfect, open up to your feelings and experience them instead of fighting their influence and wondering why they exist.
Anatma (or anatta)
Similar to anitya, but specifically relates to the impermanence of the self. In other words, the self also changes and we are made anew each minute. Over the years, your personality, viewpoints, thoughts, memories and personal history will change. The idea of finding yourself is not a practical solution because you are always there. Instead, create and evolve yourself into the version you would like to be from moment to moment in the now.
The central tenet of Buddhism is the unshakable deliverance of the heart and how to cultivate a calm, honest relationship with our lives whether things are on an upward or downward stream. Attaining this state of being will not occur overnight and takes a great deal of practice and patience. The third noble truth encourages letting go of attachment to desire and useless cravings in order to cease suffering. This does not mean that you can’t love others or care about what you do. It instead suggests letting go of the pain in your heart about the conditioned things you think you need, wanting everything to be different, wanting something to happen (or not) and spending your day obsessively thinking about your wishes. It is about breaking the never-ending cycle of ‘if only’ and living your life with what it brings you.