I just got back from a week-long silent meditation retreat, completely cut off from the world with no devices. As Buddhist monk, Ajan Chah said: It is easy for me to be alone in the forest, but its difficult to be with other people (present company excluded!).
I must say that I missed out on all the election excitement – so I am working on Equanimity this week. In difficulties and crisis equanimity touches our hearts and help us act appropriately.
I breathe in I calm my body
I breathe out I calm my mind.
Equanimity (or upeka in Pali) is one of the 4 Brahma-vihara’s or heavenly abodes – the others being Loving-kindness (metta), Compassion (karuna) and Sympathetic Joy (mudita). Known as beautiful emotions or energies, these four attitudes are said to be excellent or sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings. They provide the answer to all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They level social barriers, build harmonious communities and revive joy and hope. The Brahma-viharas are incompatible with a hating state of mind. They are called abodes (vihara) because they should become the mind’s constant dwelling-places where we feel “at home”. They should become our inseparable companions, and we should be mindful of them in all our common activities.
Equanimity is a peaceful yet powerful emotion – a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight and promote human brotherhood against the forces of egotism. It is not cold or indifference, it comes with open heart. Although it grows naturally with our meditation practice, equanimity can also be cultivated. We can feel this possibility of balance in our hearts in the midst of life when we recognize that life is not in our control. We are a small part of a great dance. Even though we may cultivate a boundless compassion for others and strive to alleviate suffering in the world, there will still be many situations we are unable to affect. The well known serenity prayer says, “May I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Wisdom recognizes that all beings are heir to their own karma, that they each act and receive the fruits of their actions. We can deeply love others and offer them assistance, but in the end they must learn for themselves, they must be the source of their own liberation. Equanimity combines an understanding mind together with a compassionate heart.
Looking at the world around us, and looking into our own heart, we see clearly how difficult it is to attain and maintain balance of mind. Looking into life we notice how it continually moves between contrasts: rise and fall, success and failure, loss and gain, honor and blame. We feel how our heart responds to all this with happiness and sorrow, delight and despair, disappointment and satisfaction, hope and fear. These waves of emotion carry us up and fling us down; and no sooner do we find rest, than we are in the power of a new wave again. How can we expect to get a footing on the crest of the waves? How can we erect the building of our lives in the midst of this ever restless ocean of existence, if not on the Island of Equanimity.
May I be at balance and at peace. All things arise and pass away: joys, sorrows, pleasant events, people, buildings, animals, nations, even whole civilizations. May I learn to see the arising and passing of all nature with equanimity and balance. May I be open and balanced and peaceful. May I bring compassion and equanimity to the events of the world. May I find balance and equanimity and peace.