"Everything is impermanent. From moment to moment change reveals itself. Though we try endlessly to negotiate, something always seems to come along to smash whatever it is that we cling to. Endlessly, frantically, we try to get it back again. Our lives unfold like this. And it is so normal we don't question it. But until we begin to question it, until we begin to become more conscious of how we engage in this struggle all of the time, we cannot open to inner equanimity.
"The eight worldly concerns — maybe we should call them the eight worldly hang-ups! Hung up on them, our mind can't get free. We hope everything will work out; we fear that so much will not work out. But this kind of security is elusive. Samsara by its very nature is not secure. So long as we try to make everything fit our ideas of how everything should be, how everything should go along, we are caught. And there is always something; haven't you noticed? The world around you may never seem quite right, or else it is right just for a second, until something else happens. Everything would be fine, if only . . . But there is always an if only.
"Running a nunnery, I am very conscious of this. Every morning I wake up and wonder, What will it be today? We can spend our lives worrying like this, caught between our desire for things to go as we want and resisting the way they go anyway. Or we can develop the inner ability to know that this process is happening within us: we can become like a boat, just riding the waves of samsara. We can open to equanimity as we deal with situations. However much we want to gain acknowledgment, pleasure, praise, reputation — the fact of the matter is that we gain some and we lose some. Sometimes things are difficult for us. Sometimes we suffer. We experience criticism, obscurity, discomfort, pain. We lose things. We lose people. We lose our health, and eventually we lose our precious life.
"We suffer when we live our lives as a form of resistance against things not going as we want. We suffer when we try desperately to make things go exactly as we plan and they don't. This is the point. The Buddha said there are two kinds of suffering: there is physical suffering and mental suffering. Physical suffering we can't avoid. Even the Buddha himself had physical suffering. Everybody — as you see if you live long enough — has aches and pains and accidents and sometimes very serious illnesses.
"We have a body, and our body is going to deteriorate. It is inevitable. But what is not inevitable is mental suffering, and in this we have a say. We can train our mind so that even if the body suffers the mind does not. When we are sick, or when things go wrong, we can go down in despair or we can maintain our equanimity. It is crucial that we appreciate just why this is important. Because when things go well, we often think everything is fine and that there is no real need to do much. But when things fall apart, what will we do? Today we are fine, tomorrow we may have a serious accident. Today we are with the person we love most, tomorrow they are gone."