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Life Is Long if You Know How to Use It

Our life is not short. We make it short when we waste our most precious asset: time.

By Gustavo Razzetti

February 1, 2019

Embrace impermanence — because nothing lasts forever

Impermanence rules everything. Nothing lasts forever. Even the best stories end.

So, why do we feel invincible when things go up? Or beat ourselves when things go down? We cling to one moment even though it’s gone with the wind.

 “A cloud never dies; it transforms into something else — snow or rain.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

We become arrogant when we succeed, and ignorant when we fail.

External events, achievements or possessions don’t define you. Life is ephemeral — everything comes and goes. Landing a great job doesn’t make you superior. Losing it doesn’t make you a failure either. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, “A rock thrown in the air loses nothing by coming down, gained nothing by going up.”

Resisting impermanence turns us into a victim of our ignorance.

Everything will end at some point. Recognizing the impermanence of life teaches us not to cling to the “good” or run from the “bad.” But to make room for change. When we get stuck in a moment, life feels short.

Moving with Impermanence

Life is like water — it’s always moving and transforming from one state to another.

Greek Philosopher Heraclitus famously said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” You can’t get into the same river twice because you are changing and the river is changing too.

The river is alive — it’s constantly flowing. You are transforming all the time too. You encounter new people, read a book, or travel to new places — every experience shapes you.

Resisting impermanence causes unnecessary suffering. The things that are supposed to make us happy become our trap. We cling to things. Nothing feels good enough. We are not satisfied. We want to make permanent what is continually changing.

When we try to make impermanent things permanent, we suffer when they eventually change.

When you realize the fluid nature of life, you can move with impermanence. Instead of forcing things, you let them happen. As Fritz Perls, the creator of Gestalt therapy, wrote, “Don’t push the river; it flows by itself.”

Understand the end and beginning of cycles and let them be. For one new thing to appear, something else must end first.

Ignoring Impermanence Creates Suffering

It is in our human nature to expect things to be static. We love to be in charge, to control things, and expect things to always go our way.

When times are good, we want them to last forever. We cling to things or people and expect them to stay the same. Let’s say you are enjoying a vacation abroad and want it to last forever. But, when its end is getting closer, you start feeling miserable. Instead of enjoying the present, you worry because your vacation will soon end.

The “good” and “bad” shouldn’t define your life — they are fragments of the bigger picture.

Fighting reality is pointless. Only when we stop trying to change the river’s direction, we start to flow.

Søren Kierkegaard believed that our constant escapism from our own lives is the greatest source of unhappiness. The influential Danish thinker attacked our culture of busy-as-a-badge-of-honor (150 years ago) by saying, “Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work.”

Busyness kills our attention — we avoid confronting the true nature of life. We focus on regretting what’s gone. Or try to anticipate the future. Embracing impermanence requires to accept the reality of this moment — the past is gone, the future is unpredictable.

The struggle with impermanence causes most of our suffering — we don’t want things to change. We wish them to be different. However, expectations drive disappointment — we become anxious, frustrated and stressed out.

Your life won’t last forever; don’t take it for granted. Impermanence doesn’t mean your life is short. It’s a reminder to live wisely. Your actions will make your life short or long.

Seneca writes:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.”

We must embrace, not just overcome, impermanence. Let’s appreciate and enjoy that life is fluid. Think of what you can gain instead of what’s gone. Impermanence is the driver of change — it can be refreshing and renewing.

Equanimity: How to Keep Your Mind Calm

The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy.”
— Martin Luther King

You can’t control external events, but you can train your mind to focus and stay calm.

Equanimity is tied to the notion that everything changes — nothing is permanent.

It’s defined as mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. It helps us deal with our human tendency to ‘cling to this’ and ‘push away that.’

The word equanimity comes from the Latin word aequus meaning “balance” and animus meaning “spirit or internal state.” In India, colloquially, it implies “to see with patience” — it’s the capacity not to be caught up with what happens to us.

Equanimity is seeing with understanding, rather than trying to control what we experience.

As Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote, “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

One way to develop equanimity is to ‘watch’ how we get stuck on a daily basis. Instead of trying to find balance through an idealized approach, reflect on how and when you lose balance. Observe yourself from a distance. What do you see?

We lose balance by either suppressing feelings or identifying with things. Suppression is when we deny or avoid emotions or thoughts. Identification is when we get fixated to a feeling or thought — we hold onto a construct.

Between suppression and identification lies equanimity — the third possibility.

Don’t get it wrong. Equanimity is not life neutrality — it’s living with radiance and warmth, not apathy or indifference. We learn to get rid of labels and judgment that gets in the way. We see reality as it is without allowing our thoughts and emotions to cloud understanding.

Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility, and without ill-will.”

Equanimity is a mental state of calmness — it’s a balanced perspective between positive and negative experiences. We acknowledge life’s impermanence — nothing is fixed or lasts forever.

Let’s Find the Middle Way

When we accept impermanence, it’s easier to be in the middle way, as Buddhists call it. This state allows us to function at our peak — nothing is a big deal. We learn not to take ourselves too seriously regardless if we are facing adversity or good fortune — we are neither a victim nor a superhero.

Taking the middle path is not about removing ourselves from the world nor to get lost in it — it’s about gaining a new perspective.

As Robert Wesley Miller wrote, “When you are at the top you only see shadows and when you’re at the bottom you are blinded by the light, but from the middle everything is pleasing… day and night.”

We can expect things to be different. Or wish for more perfect conditions. But idealizing life only drives frustration. The middle way is the path to finding balance.

In Building bridges between Buddhism and Western psychology, Wallace & Shapiro describe mental balance as having four aspects: attentional, cognitive, affective, and conative.

To find balance, you first need to have attentional balance — to calm and focus your mind. You learn to witness your thoughts with clarity. Cognitive balance is achieved when your mind is neither restless nor drowsy, but instead simultaneously relaxed and alert. Affective balance is the capacity to recognize and regulate emotions. Finally, conative balance requires embracing wisdom, compassion, and ethical conduct.

Balancing these four elements may lead to a state of eudemonia — human flourishing or prosperity. You are happy with yourself, regardless if things go up or down.

The middle way is not an average of two concepts, but to stop seeing things as opposites. We shift from duality to integration. Rather than thinking of materialism and spiritualism as exclusive things, we embrace both — we realize they are two sides of the same coin.

Learn to live in the reality of the present, where all the opposites exist. Poet T. S. Elliot called it “the still point of the turning world, neither from nor towards, neither arrest nor movement, neither flesh nor fleshless.”

Impermanence is not something negative. It’s understanding that life is fluid — things don’t end, they transform into something else. A good thing can turn into a bad one, and something bad can become good.

Life Is Neither Short Nor Long

“Life is long, if you know how to use it.”― Lucius Seneca

Life is not short. When we waste our time, we make it short.

Your life is long enough if you invest your energy and focus wisely. As Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

This doesn’t mean trying to squeeze everything into an already tight calendar. Busyness is avoidance, not living to the fullest. Life is not just about doing — we also need time to pause and reflect. Greek philosophers and Buddhists monks ‘booked’ a considerable amount of time for self-reflection, learning, and meditation.

Our entire life is made of individual days. Live one day at a time. Avoid getting stuck fighting the impermanence of things. Enjoy the present while it lasts. Don’t let the future steal your focus away.

Seneca cautions that we fail to treat time as a valuable resource — the most precious and least renewable one:

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

Time is not money — you cannot trade it or gain interest out of it. We can’t have more time; we make time for what matters.

Seneca reminds us not to take our life for granted: “You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply.”


When we live the life we want, we stop thinking about how long we will live. We are ready for that end to come — we won’t feel any regret if we were to die tomorrow. However, if a new day arrives for us, we would still have lots of stuff to do — we could continue making a difference.

Life is long when you know how to use it.

What do you think?



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