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The Buddha at Work - “Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, and Georges St. Pierre––Impermanence in the UFC”


Kenneth Folk and I were recently discussing how surprised we were to see the difficulty Anderson Silva had in UFC 117. “I've gotten into the habit of thinking of Silva as invincible,” Kenneth told me. I expect Georges St. Pierre to soundly defeat Josh Koscheck in the upcoming UFC 124––to me, GSP is seemingly invincible as well.



But impermanence is “the great equalizer,” according to Kenneth. We know that as amazing as Silva and GSP are, eventually their bodies are going to give out. A top UFC fighter told me last week, “my next fight could be my last fight.” Any fighter could have a career-ending injury, anytime. It happens in every sport.

UFC Hall-of-Famer Randy Couture beat James Toney this past week with a first-round submission. Randy, at forty-seven, seemingly invincible! But I used to feel that way about Liddell, and was heartbroken to see him knocked out in UFC 115.

There's no getting around impermanence. But we frequently forget it, and then we get terribly upset when it rears its ugly head. We act like it's a big surprise when things change, like it's not fair and we've been singled out for punishment. But bodies break down, shiny new cars get scratched and rusted, and invincible fighters start to lose fights.

The problem isn't impermanence. The problem is wishing it wasn't so. When we find ourselves having success, we wish for it to remain that way, desperately hoping to keep things the way they are. But by doing so, we lose sight of what else might be possible.

Here's Thich Nhat Hanh on the subject.

"If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don't suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away.

If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving and wise. Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation."

By opening ourselves up to the fact that things are changing, whether we like it or not, new possibilities arise. I love to celebrate my clients' successes. And when I can see everything as impermanent I already know that things are going to change, and I can see the world through that lens of possibility. Knowing that my clients' television series will end, I am able to help them imagine what they'd like to create in the present moment. Knowing that even a big hit movie will come and go enables me to guide them to focus on what's truly important to them, rather than to chase after the next hit, knowing it too will pass. Stephen Batchelor teaches us:

...one first needs to stop obsessing about what has happened before and what might happen later. One needs to be more vitally conscious of what is happening now. This is not to deny the reality of past and future. It is about embarking on a new relationship with the

impermanence and temporality of life. Instead of hankering after the past and speculating about the future, one sees the present as the fruit of what has been and the germ of what will be. Gotama did not encourage withdrawal to a timeless, mystical now, but an unflinching encounter with the contingent world as it unravels from moment to moment.” 

By remembering to face the world as it is, as it shifts and changes and unravels, by remembering the inevitability of change, I'm able to deal with what is, and take appropriate action in my business and in my life.

So while I'll surely be rooting for GSP this December, I'll know that impermanence is “The Great Equalizer,” and that all conditioned things are impermanent. Even GSP's dominance in the welterweight division of the UFC.

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I'll tell you, recognizing/accepting this could make a huge difference in my life. Thanks Jon.


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