Transience and the Zen of Accepting Compliments

I was paid a very lovely compliment the other day.  A good friend referred to me as a Goddess.  It was a comment made in jest about my general attributes (not just physical), but a nice comment nonetheless.  Wow, I thought to myself.  I didn’t even know what to say to him.  I think I just smiled, nodded my head and thanked him (in order to acknowledge his attention more than anything else).  It is not that I don’t like being paid a compliment or lack the self confidence to accept them, it is just that I was raised to believe that things like beauty, talent, intelligence and the like are all very transient things.  

Transience.  I love that word (and concept).  Transience is essentially referred to as “an impermanent, brief or fleeting moment.”  It is a Zen concept and underlies much of Buddhist teaching.  If we are all a myriad variety of flowers (begonias, narcissus, petunias, roses), we experience transience through a cycle of budding, growing, flowering, germination and dying.  Nothing on this earth is eternal and everything experiences the Eternal Cycle of life.  Our blooms open, flourish and fade as the seasons wind their way along the randomized chaotic garden that is life.  If beauty, talent, personality and creativity are “petals” within these blooms, they too would certainly experience a similar degree of impermanence.  Transience then, encourages us to accept our fleeting time on earth and urges us to devour the Eternal Present.

As I have gotten older, I no longer linger over such concepts with a morbid sense of melancholy.  To me, I see impermanence as an opportunity for spiritual and creative growth.  There is something heavenly and transcendent about those intangible moments that transience bestows upon us (and we have all experienced them):  the momentary song of a bird, the moon rising in the western sky, the laughter of a child, the twinkle in a friend’s eye, the warmth of a spring rain…I could go on.  We sense wonder in these moments because we are all searching for the same thing.  We seek heaven on earth.  We want to believe that we can capture those fleeting milliseconds for an infinite eternity and store it in the vessels of our souls.  Paeans, songs, hymns, plays, and great paintings are human tributes to these moments.  Moments inspired by the flutter of a Swallowtail’s wings.  Moments inspired by…a compliment.

-Poseidon’s Muse

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