The Five Remembrances

  • How do I have meaning and purpose in my life?
  • How do I stop worrying so much?
  • How do I know what’s really important to me?
  • How do I keep my focus on reality instead of delusion?

These are big questions with no easy answers. One way to search for the answers is to remove obstacles to thinking clearly. These obstacles can be seen as avoidance of truths that we don’t want to face.

Buddhist literature has stated five things to remember that are intended to help us live a good life and remember what it means to be human. By accepting these remembrances or truths, we can clear away unhealthy debris and empower ourselves to make good choices in our own best interest.

These are the inevitable realities of being human according to Buddhism:

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

This is obvious when you think about it. However, many of us will do everything we can do avoid old age, or at least the effects of it.

Growing old is seen as a negative thing. The body doesn’t look as good and your own mortality becomes more real.

However, recent research tells us that young people tend to have higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression as well as the lowest levels of happiness and satisfaction.

By comparison, older people were the happiest. We older folks are better at knowing who we are and at dealing with stress. Also, older people generally have more emotional stability and social skills.

Research also reports that older people are better at handling life’s stressors and show better emotional stability and social skills.

What if getting old was something to look forward to?

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

At some point we will all have an illness. It may be temporary, or it may be permanent. And it will affect our body or mind or both.

It would be wonderful if we all died of old age, but not all of us will. Some of us will just be unlucky and some of us will harm ourselves due to unhealthy lifestyle choices.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

This is another obvious truth we don’t like to think or talk about. One might say that it’s the ultimate fear.

However, as difficult as it might be to reflect upon at first, thinking about death, even for but a few moments each day, can be a powerful and fulfilling practice.

Accepting your own mortality can act as a reminder to appreciate every moment of life because you never know when it will end. And that appreciation becomes a powerful tool for realizing peace and fulfillment.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

The reality is that everything is impermanent. Nothing stays the same. Not the universe, not the earth and not our lives.

Our loved ones will change and eventually be gone. Our material possessions will also eventually be gone.

Trying to deny this or prevent it will only bring suffering. But accepting it brings a profound sense of gratitude and appreciation.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

And here lies hope. There are many things out of our control. But we can control our actions.

We have the ability to make healthy choices, have great relationships, treat people well and feel good about ourselves.

This is how you will be remembered. This will be your legacy.

What does this all mean?

  • Accept reality.
  • Be grateful.
  • Be mindful.
  • Live in the present.
  • Take care of yourself.