This last month I've been spending a lot of time visiting and saying goodbyes to friends and family. For example, I recently went to visit my friend Tom for what I thought was going to be my last time seeing him for at least several months, if not years. So, as we said our farewells, I told him that I probably not see him again for a long time.
After the visit, he called me a couple days later saying I had left my umbrella at his place! So I went back to visit him again, even though I had thought I would not see him for a long time. Yet, there he was, just a wee And as we departed, we said our goodbyes again, and again I thought, this will probably be the last time I will see him for quite a long time...but is that so?
The monastery I will be attending is a branch monastery of Ajahn Chah, a famous Thai master of the 20th century. He liked to talk a lot about the uncertainty and its connections to life. For example, here a short snippet from a talk he gave to some of his students:
...All states of mind, happy or unhappy, are called arom. Whatever they may be, never mind — we should constantly be reminding ourselves that "this is uncertain."
This is something people don't consider very much, that "this is uncertain." Just this is the vital factor that will bring about wisdom. It's really important. In order to cease our coming and going and come to rest, we only need to say, "This is uncertain." Sometimes we may be distraught over something to the point that tears are flowing; this is something not certain. When moods of desire or aversion come to us, we should just remind ourselves of this one thing. Whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, whatever appears is uncertain. Can't you do this? Keep it up no matter what happens. Give it a try. You don't need a lot - just this will work. This is something that brings wisdom.