Five remembrances for deep peace (Day 90)

July 11, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessIn learning to experience deep peace in the face of impermanence, we need to consider not just our inner experience, as I did yesterday, but our very lives, and the lives of those around us. Life is short; we all face loss.

These things aren’t really different from what I was discussing yesterday, since it’s our inner feelings about changes in the world that we largely have to deal with, but the same situations can be looked at from different perspectives. When we’re actually experiencing loss, instability, and change, we can work on accepting the the feelings that arise with equanimity. But we can also prepare ourselves philosophically for painful changes that may happen in … Read more »

There’s nothing to hold onto; there’s nothing to do any holding on. (day 89)

July 10, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessI’ve been explaining how the practice of upekkha bhavana isn’t really about equanimity, and how upekkha itself isn’t really equanimity, but the desire that beings experience peace. It’s the desire that we and others experience the profound peace of enlightenment or awakening (bodhi).

In the upekkha bhavana — and in other ways in our lives — we cultivate peace through developing insight. And then we wish that others attain that peace. Now it doesn’t matter if we’ve not actually experienced the peace of awakening ourselves; we can still know that it’s a beneficial and desirable state for others, and develop the desire that they find the peace of awakening.

There are actually many angles on … Read more »

The big turn-around (Day 88)

July 9, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessI started this 100 Days of Lovingkindness just after our new year drive to get people meditating regularly — our 100 Day Meditation Challenge — was coming to an end.

Naturally there was a lot of discussion on our Google+ community about what we were going to do to follow on from our first 100 days, and many people were keen on exploring mindfulness, using a wonderful book by Jan Chozen Bays, called How to Train a Wild Elephant. But I really wanted to explore lovingkindness practice and the other Brahmaviharas.

There are no doubt many reasons for this. One is that I’d lost my temper a couple of times, and although I’d been … Read more »

Radiating peace (Day 87)

July 8, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessUpekkha involves closely (upa) watching (īkṣ) ourselves in order to develop insight, and the calm that follows from insight, and it also involves wishing that peace for others in a compassionate and loving way — which means wishing that others attain insight. So there’s a self-regarding and an other-regarding aspect to upekkha, just as there is with lovingkindness.

These qualities of closeness, lovingness, the helpfulness that comes with compassion, are usually not stressed when people discuss upekkha. It’s the peace that is emphasized, although usually it’s translated as “equanimity,” which I’m now finding rather inadequate.

In cultivating upekkha we can start by closely watching our own experience, observing the arising and passing of pleasurable and … Read more »

Acting with equanimity (Day 86)

July 7, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessI’ve always suspected that the Buddha had a hard time expressing himself, not because of any lack of ability of his part, but because the language that he had available to him was very limited. Actually all language is limited, but the Buddha was trying to express teachings that were very profound and subtle. He said he’d doubted whether it was possible to communicate the insights that he’d realized:

This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise.

Fortunately “he saw beings with little dust in their eyes” and decided it was worth trying.

And he was trying … Read more »

Upekkha as an insight practice (Day 85)

July 6, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessOne of the things I love is that when you spend some time hanging out with a practice, you often start to see it in new ways. This has happened for me with each of the four brahmavihara practices we’ve been exploring — lovingkindness, compassion, joyful appreciation, and also equanimity, which is what we’re currently focusing on. I see each of these practices differently after practicing them regularly and reflecting on them, but I’m also starting to see things about the brahmaviharas as a whole that I’d never noticed before.

I’m noticing a kind of progression, suggesting an underlying framework that crops up over and over again in the Buddha’s teachings. It’s not the first … Read more »

Words of equanimity; wordless equanimity (Day 84)

July 5, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessSo far in this 100 Days of Lovingkindness I haven’t said anything about the phrases we use in cultivating equanimity on the cushion, although in the guided meditation I posted the other week I suggested the words “May all beings find peace.”

In his “A Wise Heart,” Jack Kornfield suggests some beautiful phrases:

“May you learn to see the arising and passing of all things with equanimity and balance.

May you be open and balanced and peaceful.”

These remind us of a number of things. We’re reminded that equanimity includes an element of wisdom, which is where its peace comes from. Our deepest suffering comes from an inability to deal with impermanence, and from craving … Read more »

The still, spacious, and vibrant mind of equanimity (and how to get there) (Day 83)

July 4, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessSometimes I find it hard to write about equanimity. It’s hard to make an absence of reactivity sound interesting. There’s so much emphasis on not reacting to others suffering with aversion or to their happiness with craving, that it can sound like a rather dull and uncaring state. And even though I’ve been emphasizing that equanimity is actually love that is even-minded and free from reactivity, the emotional side of equanimity tends to get lost sight of.

So I’m going to try to stress some of the positive qualities of equanimity.

Upekkha (that’s what I’m calling “equanimity” or “even-minded love”) is a state of completely free and unbounded love, care, kindness, and compassion. It’s the … Read more »

The “near enemy” of even-minded love (Day 82)

July 3, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessThe traditional term “near enemy” points to some spiritually unhelpful quality or experience that can be mistaken for a helpful quality or experience. The near enemy is a kind of counterfeit of what we’re actually aiming for, and it’s unhelpful because while the genuine article helps free us from suffering, the counterfeit doesn’t.

Each of the four practices we’re focusing on in our 100 Days of Lovingkindness — metta (lovingkindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (joyful appreciation), and upekkha (even-minded love) — collectively known as the divine abidings (brahma viharas) or the “four immeasurables” has a near enemy.

Buddhaghosa, a 6th century commentator, has the following to say about the near enemy of upekkha, or even-minded love, … Read more »

Equanimity’s “far enemies” (Day 81)

July 2, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessBuddhaghosa decribes the “far enemies” of equanimous love like this: “Greed and resentment … are its far enemies … for it is not possible to look on with equanimity and be inflamed with greed or be resentful simultaneously.”

He also says, “[Equanimity’s] function is to see equality in beings. It is manifested as the quieting of resentment and approval.”

Equanimity destroys greed (or approval) and resentment, and greed (or approval) and resentment destroy equanimity, and so they’re direct opposites or, as the tradition calls them, “far enemies.”

Equanimity is a state of neither approval nor disapproval, aversion nor craving. It’s a state of balance, calm, and peace. When it’s applied in relation to our own … Read more »