Equanimity releases us from biases and prejudices that cause hurt and cruelty. Prejudice divides rather than unites. Examples are racism, gender issues and political biases of all kinds. Sports are another example, i.e. “My team is better than yours.”
It is possible to love and enjoy things without making other people less. But this path of non attachment must be cultivated.
Often people have a misconception about equanimity. It is confused with not caring, with indifference. The misguided thought is that if we aren’t feeling horribly sad, angry or disgusted over something that we don’t care.
But Buddhists teach that indifference and apathy are the opposite of equanimity.
When we are in a state of equanimity we can touch into the suffering of the world without drowning in it. We can surf the waves of life that continually go up and down and endure even the storms. Everything that arises is simply part of the adventure.
Equanimity creates bridges that connect rather than walls that exclude.
Equanimity leads to a place of balance within the heart and mind.
When we are out of balance we find difficulty even in walking, much less in attempting to communicate effectively.
Equanimity leads to a balanced state of mind in which we can think clearly and act wisely because we give equal consideration to the various perspectives before deciding on an issue. Thus we free ourselves of bias.
Biases are habits.
Habits form very early in life and can stay with us way past their usefulness. Habits don’t dissolve without effort. They break apart as they are watched closely without acting on them. We inquire as to our motive. What is it we are trying to communicate? What do we want to happen?
As we investigate the beliefs that are embedded in whatever situation arises we can begin considering different views—other possible ways of seeing a situation. We learn to refrain from jumping to a conclusion.
Equanimity helps us accept how things are right now. When we truly accept that this is the way it is, for now, we can begin positive changes.
A good example of equanimity is the serenity prayer from AA. “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.”
Serenity is worth making effort to cultivate.
Serenity is the acceptance of what is so that the actions we take come from a calm and open space within us. We are not hanging onto one viewpoint—making demands upon others, or life itself.
Through equanimity we learn to look at all sides from many angles so that we see more clearly what needs to be done before we do damage by immaturely making our decision.
We gradually learn to accept that there is some validity every perspective. It’s no accident that people have their viewpoints. It comes from their history and their intentionality. Viewpoints are developed gradually through cultural conditioning. They become habits.
There are often important ideas and values that can be lost by pushing aside these different ways of seeing—thinking they are not worth considering.
So how do we accept the unacceptable?
I suggest starting small—with slight annoyances.
For instance I booked an airplane ticket several months ago only to receive an email recently telling me the flight home had been changed and instead of arriving at nine pm I would be arriving at midnight. My first reaction was irritation as it’s much easier to ask someone to pick me up at nine pm rather than midnight. Plus the new arrival time included a very long layover.
As these thoughts were going through my mind I also realized that no matter how I might wish things to be otherwise, this is the way things are.
I remembered the path to acceptance of what is is always the first step. So I let it be.
I called the airlines this morning to check on the itinerary and found the email sent me must have been in error. I received a new itinerary arriving home at nine pm.
I saved myself a lot of stress by not focusing on the issue, but using the phrases of equanimity that I have learned.
When we stress out over conditions over which we have little or no control we are being part of the problem, rather than the solution.
Here are several phrases that open the mind to spaciousness and possibilities, rather than lock us into one perspective.
“Whether I understand it or not, things are unfolding according to divine law.”
“This is how it is right now, and it will change.”
“I care for you but I can’t control your happiness and unhappiness.”
“May I find the inner resources to be present for my suffering.”
“May my heart and mind be open to this experience with balance and ease.”
The truth is that we all meet some suffering in life. But we choose how we will meet it. And therein lies our freedom!
We can learn to notice when things are unpleasant and use an equanimity phrase. This practice lessens our suffering while also bringing more calmness and peace into the world!
In growing awareness,