Equanimity

from a talk by Lisa Glueck

Equanimity is a spacious stillness of the mind that is able to meet with steadiness and serenity the changing experiences that constitute our world and our lives. It is a lovely place to dwell.

Sometimes when people first hear about equanimity, it is mistaken for indifference. This is a misperception. To the contrary, equanimity means caring for the welfare of the world but without attachment to a particular outcome.

The word is a translation of the Pali term upekkha, meaning “to look over”. We climb to the top of the mountain to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other. This is refreshing, our muscles relax and we breathe easily. Descending the mountain, we carry a trace of this panoramic awareness, this broader perspective, with us.

Upekkha is also sometimes translated “to stand in the middle of all this”. We bring a balanced perspective and awareness into the midst of whatever is happening. We see both sides of a conflict and are able to understand both sides. One of the Dalai Lama’s core teachings is that all sentient beings are the same: everyone desires happiness and seeks to avoid misery.

I was once a student of Tibetan Buddhism and loved the practice of considering that every person has been your mother (or best friend if that works better for you) in countless lives, benefitting you directly and indirectly since beginningless time. Don’t be concerned if you can’t take this practice literally. It works well as a skillful means to soften your heart. Can you change your attitude towards someone you resent more easily if you think they’ve been your best friend and have benefitted you in countless past lives.

The benefits of equanimity are said to include protection from the see-saw of the eight worldly winds: praise and blame; success and failure; pleasure and pain; fame and disrepute.

How are the other three Divine Abodes – loving-kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy(mudita) – affected by their relationship with equanimity?

With equanimity, loving kindness is free of any attachment, preserving one’s freedom and the freedom of the object of your metta.

Equanimity endows compassion with the courage to face life’s difficulties with deep caring, doing what can be done, while all the time knowing that suffering can’t always be fixed.

When we experience sympathetic joy and equanimity is also present, we are sensitive to the effect that the prevailing feelings may have on those around us

To sum up. Equanimity is a state of great honor. We move freely into a situation as it actually is – no hidden agenda, manipulative thought or covert action – that is, with a true sense of sufficiency. Love and harmony are the result of accepting a situation in such a way.

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