The 5 Remembrances and Recovery

In Buddhist teachings, the 3 Characteristics or Marks of existence, are Anicca (Impermanence, Unreliability), Dukkha (stress, unsatisfactoriness), and Anatta (not-self). The 5 Remembrances, five facts regarding life’s fragility and our responsibility for our karma, are recommended as frequent reminders of the impermanence of all things:

  1. I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape growing old.
  2. I am of the nature to have ill health. I cannot escape having ill health.
  3. I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape death.
  4. 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.
  5. I inherit the results of my actions in body, speech, and mind. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

These remembrances are not grim, pointless contemplations. They are designed to help us to weaken our self-absorption – in delusions that we will retain our youth, health, and aliveness; our unwise attachments to fleeting pleasures; and our blaming circumstances and taking less-than-rigorous responsibility for actions of thought, word, and deed.

In recovery, we’re advised to “keep it green”, remembering the fragility of our sobriety and how close the next drink or drug might be. We are taught to take actions to clean up our behaviors, reconcile harms we caused, and lead more responsible, ethical lives. We are also urged to live in the present, avoiding rumination, resentments, and unproductive guilt. And in daily 11th Step practices we find openess to direction from “higher powers” and relinquishment of “self”.

All these are powerful insights about life. May we live them now.

About Fran D.