The fourth of the series of practices we’ve been exploring in this 100 Days of Lovingkindness is evenmindedness, which is more often translated as equanimity. The Pali word for this is upekkha, and in Sanskrit (Pali’s big sister, so to speak) this is upeksha.
The word upekkha actually covers a number of distinct but related qualities, with the common factor being non-reactivity. Here are three ways the Buddha talked about equanimity — and that’s before we talk about the practice of equanimity as a brahmavihara (the brahmaviharas, or divine abidings, beingthe four practices we’re exploring over this 100 days).
A sticking point some people have with lovingkindness practice is what it means to wish someone “well.” This came up the other day with someone who has health difficulties that just aren’t going to go away. What does it mean for him to wish himself well? He’s not ever going to be completely healthy, so wellness is never going to be attained. What’s the point of wishing yourself something you can’t have? Isn’t that just a source of suffering. Yikes!
And the same applies to others. If you have a friend who’s, say, dying of cancer, what does it mean to wish them well?
There’s a nice little dialog that the Buddha has where he … Read more »
Recently someone wrote to me and said that although he’d been making great progress in his meditation and had been experiencing at times profound peace and intense clarity, his meditation recently had become very turbulent. There can be many reasons for this, of course, but one that came to mind was when we need to shift gear in our meditation practice.
This turbulence may well have been a call to go deeper. We can get used to having a generally more positive experience, and get used to a certain ease in our practice. The mind is generally calmer, and we’re more joyful and experience more kindness. But we can become unused to experiencing difficulties, and … Read more »
One evening after my Wednesday night meditation class, Amy, a member of our D.C. meditation community, asked if we might talk for a few minutes about her mother, a woman she often referred to as “a manipulative, narcissistic human.” Amy’s mother had recently been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, and as the only local offspring, Amy had become her mother’s primary caretaker. So, there she was, spending hours a day with a person she’d been avoiding for decades. “I can’t stand myself for having such a hard heart,” Amy confessed.
Amy and I agreed to meet privately to explore how she might use her practice to find more freedom in relating to her mother. At … Read more »
I come from a long line of drama queens. My family could create drama out of going to the supermarket. They also drank a lot which enhanced this tendency.
Let’s face it, many of us who have staggered about in the realm of addictive or blow-your-mind substances, have a predisposition towards catastrophizing. Something in us enjoys creating volcanic eruptions out of molehills. Even many of us who have heroically extricated ourselves from substance misuse or abuse have failed to let go the accompanying tendency to see the world in terms of flash crashes, trench warfare, bubonic plague, and other extreme events.
Even though we may be consciously inclined towards the Middle Path and serenity, our … Read more »
Painful experiences range from subtle discomfort to extreme anguish – and there is a place for them. Sorrow can open the heart, anger can highlight injustices, fear can alert you to real threats, and remorse can help you take the high road next time.
But is there really any shortage of suffering in this world? Look at the faces of others – including mine – or your own in the mirror, and see the marks of weariness, irritation, stress, disappointment, longing, and worry. There’s plenty of challenge in life already – including unavoidable illness, loss of loved ones, old age, and death – without needing a bias in your brain to give you an extra … Read more »
In our lives we often find ourselves in situations we can’t control, circumstances in which none of our strategies work. Helpless and distraught, we frantically try to manage what is happening. Our child takes a downward turn in academics and we issue one threat after another to get him in line. Someone says something hurtful to us and we strike back quickly or retreat. We make a mistake at work and we scramble to cover it up or go out of our way to make up for it. We head into emotionally charged confrontations nervously rehearsing and strategizing.
The more we fear failure the more frenetically our bodies and minds work. We fill our days … Read more »
You can’t read much about the important quality of mindfulness without learning that it involves being nonjudgmental – that it involves setting aside discriminations and simply accepting our experience.
For example, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s informal definition of mindfulness (from Wherever You Go, There You Are) reads: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
I use that kind of language myself sometimes, but I also notice that it’s subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, misleading.
Certainly, mindfulness has a quality of equanimity about it. Equanimity is a quality of calmness and composure. To give a negative example, I was recently leading a retreat, and in one meditation … Read more »
This is an invitation to download some free MP3s of my teaching.
This week I’m doing a lot of meditation teaching at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in New Hampshire, and I’ve been recording the meditation sessions and uploading them to a Dropbox account.
Most of the recordings are from 30 to 50 minutes long. I’ve been introducing the Mindfulness of Breathing, Development of Lovingkindness, and Walking Meditation practices. The overall theme is a phrase from the Pali canon, “Abiding in Ease, Here and Now,” and the meditations encourage a sense of spacious relaxation into the moment, with the emphasis on acceptance and equanimity.
If you’d like to download these, just post a comment below, and I’ll … Read more »
The next time the stock market takes a sickening plunge, perhaps you should take time out to meditate.
That would be the recommendation of certified financial planner Graham Byron and meditation coach Maria Gonzalez. The pair recently published a book called The Mindful Investor. The book’s subtitle makes an impressive claim: By maintaining a calm mind, you can obtain both inner peace and financial security.
Gonzalez, president of Toronto-based Argonauta Strategic Alliances Consulting Inc., says the book was conceived after Byron noticed how practising “mindfulness” and “equanimity” helped his clients when the market crashed.
Mindfulness meditation involves cultivating the simple awareness of whatever is arising in the moment. “It enabled him to work with … Read more »