Jack Kornfield – Heart Wisdom – Ep. 1 – Impermanence


In this talk, Jack Kornfield discusses how to navigate change in relation to the Buddhist concept of impermanence.

He touches on the importance of meditation in cultivating a healthier perspective toward impermanence. When we are quiet, we can rest in loving awareness and see our true nature from the heart of understanding. When we accept that change is inevitable and find our composure in that knowledge, we can reenter the river of experience.

“There is some sense that when you know that things change, and accept it or you find you composure in it. . . you find yourself in Nirvana. Nirvana isn’t in the Himalayas, it’s not in some ancient text, or some esoteric imagination. It’s the invitation to find peace in your own heart amidst change.”

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Transforming Suffering into Grace:

Jack Kornfield opens by introducing the concept of “transforming suffering into grace”. He reflects on the New Year as an example of inevitable change and the transience of all things, including pain and suffering. He describes how Ram Dass was unafraid of people’s suffering–this offered people the space to sit with their pain and transform it through the acceptance of transience. 

The Flow of Change (7:44) 

Jack describes feelings as an example of constant change. He looks at the way that our thoughts and feelings are often “ungovernable”. Once you notice the flow of change and realize you get to experience things without needing to own them, you are able to be in grace.

 “The point is to take your seat in the mystery of this change and to allow your awareness to be like the depths of the ocean” – Jack Kornfield

The River of Being (11:54)

Jack describes a waterfall scene as told by Zen Master Suzuki Roshi. He talks about how life is like the experience of one droplet falling out of a waterfall. 

“We come out of the river of being and then we are separate for a while from that mysterious river we are all born from. We feel ourselves as separate and it is not so easy–and then we rejoin the river.” —Jack Kornfield

We listen to a quote from Zen Master Suzuki that describes being in Nirvana as coming to terms with the fact that everything changes, that we are a droplet falling, and that finding composure within impermanence will lead to inner peace. Amidst change and chaos you can find peace in your own heart–meditation is a way to cultivate this practice.

Check out a talk from Jack Kornfield on death and impermanence Jack Kornfield – Heart Wisdom – Ep. 134 – On Death
Peace Inside Uncertainty (21:44)

Jack describes events in his personal life and in the world (such as 9/11) as proof of this ever-changing cycle of suffering and joy. How might attempting to always be in joy be a failed pursuit? 

We can not always have pleasure just as we can not always be in pain. All feelings are impermanent. He says we must endure loss as we experience beauty, accept that things fall apart, and yield to uncertainty. To be uncertain is to be alive and to be wise is to find peace within yourself during all experiences. 

To learn more on how to meditate more effectively, check out fellow teacher Sharron Salzberg’s lesson on the practice.



Image via marukopum