At this momentous time in our nation’s history, “equanimity” probably does not describe what most of us are striving for right now. On the contrary, many of us are striving for justice, for healing—some of us, for survival. Is the peace and balance of meditation taking us in the wrong direction?
Not in my understanding. In my experience, equanimity has great power—especially at times like these.
When I reflect on the power of equanimity, I think of those times when we see beyond judgment and self-interest and realize that we are choosing instead of reacting; those times when the pain of injustice is held in our hearts, while the mind is still, steady, and clear; those times when we make small choices that show great care and influence social balance. This is the power of equanimity.
We might begin to understand this power using nature as a metaphor. For example, equanimity can feel internally like a great mountain, with the mind solid and stable, undisturbed by the changing seasons. Or it can be like the ocean, with the mind vast, deep, and immeasurable, undisturbed by whatever swims, floats, or is housed in its waters. Equanimity can be like a strong fire — roaring, engulfing, and transmuting, undisturbed by whatever is thrown into it. Or like immense space — open, allowing, and receiving, undisturbed by the objects that arise and pass away.
As we walk through the coming week, we may want to call on the strength of these elemental inner resources for balance and equipoise. For example, there are times when we will need to stand our ground, strong like a mountain, and observe what emerges, or we may need to add a spark of fiery truth to a situation. Other times, we may need to open and allow more space around the tightness of our worries, or let go and be held by an ocean of love.
In all of these forms, equanimity is awareness so spacious that whatever arises in our mind and heart, whether agreeable or disagreeable, is small and incidental compared to awareness itself. In other words, when we are equanimous, nothing is left out of heart’s view.
Equanimity enables us to know the energetic movements of mind without reactivity. It is an experience of grounded presence in the midst of extremes, when the mind is steady and responsive, and when we can say to ourselves, “This moment is like this, and it doesn’t have to be different right now. I can allow what is here and offer what is needed.”
Imagine the power of this inner resource as we engage with the messy world in which we live.
And yet, equanimity is not something we can force. It’s an experience we come to recognize and nurture through mindfulness practice. Fortunately, even outside of formal meditation, you can orient the heart toward that experience simply by bringing to mind intentions of equanimity. I will give several examples here. My invitation to you is to find two or three that resonate with you, and try them at different times in your day. As you say them to yourself, take time to relax and linger in the goodwill motivating these phrases:
May I bear witness to things just as they are.
May I remain peaceful and let go of fixation.
May I offer care without hesitation, knowing I may be met with gratitude, anger, or resistance.
May I offer care, knowing I don’t control the course of life, suffering, or death.
May I find the inner resources to genuinely contribute where needed.
May I see my limits with compassion, just as I see the limits of others.
I care about the pain of others, yet I cannot control it.
I care for all beings, but my way is not the only way. All beings have their own journey, and I have mine.
May I be free from preference and prejudice.
May I see the world with quiet eyes.
Excerpt from Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out – Published by Ten Percent Happier App, October 29, 2020.