Tonight, we will be practicing the 4th Brahma Vihara or Divine Abode in the Buddhist tradition: Equanimity (or Upekkha in the Pali language) 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. Equanimity entails balancing presence with a forgiving and tolerant heart.
This past weekend, a dedicated meditation teacher, Lila Wheeler, chose equanimity as the theme of a four-day silent retreat at the Margaret Austin Center, offering insights and experiential practices related to this Brahma Vihara. She started off by asking, “Are you willing to be kind and friendly to yourself?” (I’ll give you a moment to reflect on that question.)
Lila translated Upekkha as “seeing from a high place,” which implies having a wise perspective. Instead of judging ourselves and thinking, “I should be (or life should be) different,” Lila suggested, “THIS IS HOW IT IS” as a mantra for equanimity practice. Her advice was to “just be present, and live in real time,” and she reminded us, “We don’t have to like what happens.”
Lila instructed us to accept the support of the earth and to bring a kind and spacious attention to each moment. According to her, “there is no wrong experience during meditation.” She cited research about fetuses whose brains start worrying before birth and joked, “No wonder it takes effort to counteract the mind’s default mode of fanstasizing, projecting and worrying.”
Setting a goal of befriending each moment, Lila asked us to stroll slowly as if we were carefully carrying a lit candle in our hands. We practiced resting in the body, letting natural sensations and experiences arise. The body operates in real time, so we can sense the body here and now. TRY IT NOW
WITH CLOSED EYES:
Sense the gravitational pull of the body.
Sense its weight and its connection with the earth.
Sense lightness or buoyancy and the space around the body.
Feel the vibration of air touching the surface of the skin.
Sense the interior of the skin—any warmth, wateriness, the blood’s pulsation.
Sense water in the mouth and behind the eyelids.
Sense the mineraliness and hardness of the bones.
Take an interest in the experiential nature of the body.
Notice any related feelings—any tightness in the heart area or the jaw….
Lila asked us to notice nonjudgmentally how it is to be a human being who gets lost from time to time. She recommended connecting to the body with a baseline of friendliness, resting in neutral feeling tones instead of spacing out during tranquil moments.
We practiced investigating how our attitude is in relation to whatever is occurring. As my awareness grew, I could sense the wholeness of the body and accept the pain within it. Part of my practice was to stay caring and connected to what was arising without reacting or feeling overwhelmed.
Lila guided us through the following equanimity practice:
Sit comfortably with closed eyes.
Recall a time when you were peaceful and calm…
Remember the goodness in yourself…in others…in life…
Recall challenges that you have faced…that others have faced…
Contemplate the benefits of a mind that has balance and equanimity.
As Thich Nhat Hanh recommends, recite to yourself, “Breathing in, I calm the body. Breathing out, I calm the mind.”
Continue with reciting silently to yourself the phrases, “May I be balanced. May I be at peace.”
Let your calmness spread, sending wishes that all who are here have balance and peace.
May all beings around us be balanced and peaceful.
May the whole world find balance and peace.
We acknowledge that all things arise and pass away—all experiences, joys and sorrows, pleasant and painful events, buildings, animals, nations, civilizations, maybe even the universe…
Rest in the center of all this.
Listen receptively to this equanimity prayer:
May I see the world with quiet eyes.
May I offer my care and presence without conditions,
knowing that they may be met with gratitude, anger or indifference.
May I find the inner resources to truly be able to give.
May I remain in peace and let go of expectations.
May I offer love,
knowing that I cannot control the course of life, suffering, or death.
I care about your pain, yet I cannot control it.
I care about my own pain, yet I cannot control it.
I wish you happiness and peace, but I cannot make choices for you.
I love you, but I know that all beings have their own journey.
You have yours, and I have mine.
May I see my limits compassionately, just as I view the limits of others.
May I be undisturbed by the changing circumstances of life.
May I be at peace amidst the changes of my life and the lives of others.
May I offer my efforts to help, knowing that they may be of great, some or no benefit.
May I be aware and at peace with all changes.
May I be free from preference and prejudice.
May I know things just as they are.
May I accept myself just as I am.
May I see into whatever arises.
Let us end by remembering, “Breathing in, I calm the body. Breathing out, I calm the mind.”
Slowly and mindfully open your eyes and reconnect with the sangha.