Equanimity. It’s a word I think about more and more these days, which in itself is interesting given that it’s not something that I would associate with the vast majority of my life to date. I’m (correction: I was) that person who got pulled from pillar to post by both her own feelings and those of the people around her. Who rode a rollercoaster of emotions every day – extreme highs and extreme lows all bundled in together. And who was probably a bit unpredictable to be around – my Dad once described me as lighting up a room, you just were never sure what colour that light was going to be…
But now…equanimity. Or for sure a growing amount of it.
Simply defined (thanks Google!) equanimity is “calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation”. There’s more to it than this though – you just have to dig a bit deeper.
Because this definition implies that it’s a transient state – something admirable to achieve in the face of a challenge, for example: ‘it was impressive to see that she remained equanimous in the face of such disastrous results’. But in Buddhism however, equanimity (upekkha) is described as one of four sublime states of mind (the other three being loving-kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy), not a passing thought or emotion but rather a “steady conscious realisation of reality’s transience”.
We try our hardest to grasp onto things and not let them go but – whether it’s happiness or hurt we’re so desperately trying to cling on to – the reality is that at the moment you reach for it, it’s already gone.
And if that sounds somewhat dry and boring, think again. There’s immense power (see my previous post on samtosa) in realising and accepting that the world around us, the reality we live in, is constantly changing – not just from day to day but second to second. Reaching for things that no longer exist encourages longing, makes us feel lost and engenders a belief that our lives are somehow lacking.
It causes us pain.
Living life with an understanding of the bigger picture however, with full knowledge of its inevitable transience and change, provides us with space within which to not react to such things as pleasure and pain, success and failure etc. It allows us to develop a centred approach to life, from which we become less embroiled in events and emotions, and from which we can develop an inner strength and balance – that equanimous approach.
Aware that our personal sense of well-being is entirely of our own making then, ultimately equanimity delivers us freedom.
Imagine that – finding a freedom to just be in the moment, without expectation. A freedom to experience, and be experienced just as we are right now. A freedom from all of our stories.
Sounds good to me…I’ll be continuing to cultivate this one (and introducing it to class too!).