And this too shall pass

If you are experiencing sadness, whether it be grief through loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship or some other loss in your life you may have heard the expression "And this too shall pass". 

It offers comfort in that whatever emotional pain you are feeling time can slowly heal. However it was only recently that I discovered its origin in an ancient Persian proverb.

It tells the story of a powerful King who summoned his wise men and asked them to create him a ring that would bring him joy when he was sad. After deliberation the sages gave him a simple ring with the words "this too will pass" etched on it. The ring had the desired effect to make him happy when he was sad but whenever he was happy the ring would also make him sad. It became a curse because "this too will pass" applied to his state of "happiness" as well.


This proverb is a beautiful reminder about the transience of the human condition and our quest for "happiness". In Buddhist philosophy it is considered impossible to maintain a state of "happiness" because a happy event is invariably followed by a sad one and vice versa. In fact the very nature of "happiness" and "sadness" is that one cannot exist without the other. It is the contrast that defines their existence. However, beyond happiness and sadness there is peace. This is not an emotion but a state of being. It has no opposite. When we experience peace, happiness and sadness are simply observed as transient emotions. They are defined by their impermanence. A beautiful metaphor for this is that our true state can be compared to a mountain. We are peaceful and grounded. Our emotions are like the weather and the seasons. Storms may pass, the mountain may be covered in snow or bathed in brilliant sunlight but all these things eventually will pass. In the end the mountain is just the mountain - the stillness underneath the storm.   

Whilst it can be so tempting to yearn for happiness or to believe that certain situations/objects/people can make us happy we are actually caught in an illusion; a quest for the impossible. Peace is not dependent on time. It is here right now as we know our true selves as the being beyond our emotions.