An Eastern monarch is said to have charged his wise men to devise a sentence which would be true and appropriate in all times and situations.
The wise men deliberated over the question, pondering what sentence they could present to the king.
Eventually, they decided upon four simple words; This too shall pass.
Delighted with their choice, they presented it to the monarch and waited with bated breath for his reaction.
Upon hearing the words, the monarch is said to have uttered the following:
How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
While this story may not be 100% true, there are numerous versions in existence, what is undeniable, is the truth in these four words.
No matter what state we may find ourselves in, be it good or bad, it will eventually subside and be replaced with something else.
It is a reminder that we live in a state of impermanence, in constant flux and that we shouldn’t take for granted what we have.
It is too easy to become wrapped up in our thoughts and let them conquer us, but like most things in life, they are only temporary.
Life is all about change. It is an inescapable fact of life, yet we are hesitant to embrace it. We don’t like change and we try to avoid it if we can. But, we are powerless to stop time’s advancing hand.
Change can, and will, happen. This is important to remember for a number of reasons. No matter how successful we become, it can all crumble away in an instant. No one is impervious to failure, it affects us all at some point.
It is a reminder that we must stay humble in times of success because failure is only around the corner. The flip-side of this is that if you’re going through difficult times, they are not permanent.
While it may feel like they are never going to end, eventually, they will.
We are all prone to getting trapped in the negative spiral of our thoughts, but thoughts are fleeting, they are not eternal.
They come and go like the wind.
When we experience these moments we are living in a blurred reality.
We are living inside of our heads, feeling the quality of our thoughts, which becomes our reality and not the reality of the external world.
It is important to remember these four words because they describe how fleeting life can be. One moment you are riding the crest of a wave, the next you have hit a wall. Life is in a constant state of flux.
We have to stay centred and remember that we exist in states of impermanence, which will not last forever.
The important question is how can we incorporate the ethos of This too shall pass into our lives? The fundamental thing to remember is that whatever we do, whatever we accomplish, it will not last.
Eventually, those feelings of pride, anguish and anxiety that we feel will subside and be replaced with a different feeling. We should these words to keep ourselves humble in times of success and to provide us with solace in times of despair.
Life is temporary. One day we will be nothing but dust and long forgotten. It is easy to take what we have for granted because these thoughts are uncomfortable to contemplate.
Your life, your lifestyle, your health, your relationships, they are all based on a foundation of sand. One that can give way at any moment. It’s an uncomfortable reality, but a reality nonetheless.
Marcus Aurelius has a famous quote on this matter:
“You can leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say.”
All that we have and that all we experience in life is temporary. As Marcus states, we can leave life at any moment.
This may be depressing for some, but it should be liberating.
You should use these words to make the most out of your time. By accepting that we are on borrowed time, it forces us to stop taking things for granted, centre ourselves and live in the moment.
This too shall pass, whether it be for better or worse, it is one of the certainties in life.
Whatever state we find ourselves in today, one day it will pass.