Here's an excerpt from part of a workshop I held on May 5th, 2018. I am grateful to the teachings of Tara Brach and Marcela Clavijo for the inspiration behind these words.
Equanimity is one of the Brahma Viharas - The Four Divine Abodes or Dwelling Places of the Mind. These are positive qualities of the mind that we can cultivate through 'in the trenches' mindfulness tools or through meditation. One of the many benefits of any meditation practice is there is a clearing out of space, a purification of the mind that takes place over time. This is the perfect opportunity then to begin replacing the old and unhelpful though patterns with positive qualities such as equanimity, kindness, compassion and joy. Equanimity is a steadiness of the mind that helps us remain calm, patient and peaceful when confronted with challenges and change. It is the essence of what is called the “middle way” in Buddhism. The middle way is a balanced path between renunciation and complete indulgment in sensual pleasures. When we practice non-attachment to desires in the knowledge that everything is impermanent we establish the ground for the deepest happiness possible. When our mind is in balance we let go of preferences and we begin to stop grasping, stop pushing away. It is a state of open-heartedness that allows us the receive the moment as it is. Sound familiar? Like something we have practiced in meditation? Equanimity creates a sense of spaciousness that allows us to ride the changing currents of emotions, of thoughts and of experiences. It's a bit like being a surfer. Surfers know they cannot do battle with the awesome power of the waves and the ocean. As they are paddling out they carefully observe each wave that is approaching them. If it is small, they know they can just paddle up and over the top. If it is large and messy, they know they will get tossed about. So they dive under the wave with their board and come out the other side. Once they get out to the break they sit, breath, smile and observe. Watching the rolling of the sets of waves, they find one they can catch and have a glorious ride on. Big grin, right? And then they paddle back out once again. We have continuous moving waves of experiences…rising and washing away. We can either fight them..try to manipulate and manage…or we can experience them…we can live them. This non-reactive, non-grasping openness to life is our natural state…..who we are when we are at rest. This is why we practice meditation in the way we did today…simply cultivating awareness of the present moment…noting what we are experiencing…bringing the mind and body into synch. Instead of fight or flight we in a state of freedom. We all have the capacity for this but our thought patterns and reactions tends to keep us from this….instead of simple resting in ‘what is’. When I have touched on this subject of equanimity in the past some students have asked me..isnt this the same as detachment? Detachment from a psychological perspective is actually the inability to connect. In a philosophical sense, yes, detachment is very close to non-attachment…but the middle way does not require you to renounce all worldly goods and pleasures…but advises us to examine our relationship to them. It is not a resignation to life…or indifference to the suffering of others. By accepting that each person's happiness is their own responsibility, based on their own actions (which is the true meaning of karma) we find we can practice compassionate response for others suffering, but not get swept away on the current of their emotions. Equanimity is inner strength and open heartedness in the face of change and challenge. It is the practice of non-reactivity and instead intelligent and loving response to experiences, emotions, or thoughts that are tossing us about. It isnt a grin and bare it attitude. With the practice of equanimity we are not repressing our feelings and thoughts or denying them. We recognise and acknowledge them…they are real…but are they helpful or are they leading us away from a calm state of mind? How do we recognise that we are being pulled around? How do we wake up to this and come back to balance?