Tonight we will be practicing the 4th Brahma Vihara or Divine Abode in the Buddhist tradition: Equanimity or Upekkha has to do with clarity and wisdom and with being fearlessly open-minded, without judgments, desire or aversion. Equanimity implies accepting the reality of life’s high and low points and developing an attitude of inner peace amidst inevitable changes.
Upekkha is considered a wise practice for balancing the mind and liberating ourselves from reactivity and attachments. It takes regular practice to be able to open the heart in a stable, sustained way, while letting go of preferences.
Sometimes equanimity is confused with indifference, which is considered its “near enemy.” When we are indifferent, the heart is closed and defended in self-protection, but equanimity stems from an open and compassionate heart.
Jack Kornfield’s recent book, No Time Like the Present, includes instructions for “Practicing Imperfection” (p. 149). Since accepting fallibilities—our own and others’—is an essential part of maintaining equanimity, I have adapted Jack’s guided meditation to foster the capacity to love ourselves fully, including our imperfections.
First sit comfortably with eyes closed and breathe into your heart. Sense any warmth or pulsation in that part of the body. Notice any doubts that if you accept your anxiety, anger, addictions, or laziness, you may never change for the better. Trust that as loving self-acceptance grows, emotions of fear, aggression, neediness, and inertia gradually lose their grip. Your heart knows intuitively that expansive love is in your best interest.
Quietly invite a sense of presence and loving awareness to pervade you, just as you are right now….Reflect upon what you consider to be your imperfections.
First note how you view your body. What flaws do you perceive?
Second, reflect upon your personality and character. What imperfections do you perceive?
Third, reflect upon your mental states. How do you view them as flawed?
Finally, reflect upon your relationships with others. In your view, how are they imperfect?
Now imagine loving yourself just as you are—with all your human imperfections. All human beings have flaws as an integral part of human incarnation. Our task is to learn to see our imperfections clearly and to love our human condition as completely as possible.
Merge with the loving awareness that can witness and hold in a sea of love your life with its successes and imperfections. Flaws, traumas, and fears are not your essence. These outer human struggles arise and pass away in pure consciousness. Essentailly, you are timeless awareness, born with original beauty, the child of a spirit with a complicated human incarnation—just like seven billion other human beings.
With deep acceptance and equanimity, step out of the judge’s court. Let yourself become still, kind, thoughtful, and at ease with your whole self. Accepting presence supports you in making wise decisions—stemming not from shame or self-hatred, but from a loving heart that teaches wholesome ways to care. A wise and equanimous heart can transform the entire human dance.
After practicing to embrace your imperfections, you may include in the practice other people with flaws. Start with people whose imperfections are easier for you to accept before practicing with individuals with whom you have more difficult relationships.
With steady, balanced, loving awareness, review and accept all their flaws as much as possible. Take your time. Notice how equanimity and nonreactive acceptance transform feelings and soften conflicts. Remember that other people are learners, just as you are.
When you envision accepting humanly flawed, difficult people, be aware that your loving attitude and care can inspire the best in them. According to Nelson Mandela, “It never hurts to see the good in people. They often act better because of it.”
Still with eyes closed, let go of this equanimity practice, and return to the sensations of warmth and pulsation in the heart. Breathe softly and steadily. If it feels right, place a hand on your heart.
At your own pace, open your eyes and turn to a partner to process your experience.