Equanimity is challenging. Given that these are sensitive forms, we have emotions that respond and react to our environment, we don’t want to become numb or indifferent, so how can we achieve equanimity? How can we keep our balance in a changing and turbulent world?
Is equanimity like standing in the waves, feeling their force but not being pulled off our feet by the current? It’s tempting to think so, but what if that one big wave comes, the one you didn’t see in time?
Can I recommend an approach, would that be okay? It’s not just in relation to this question, it’s in relation to all similarly challenging questions. The approach is this: start by looking at the expectations and assumptions the question rests upon.
Yes, a strong wave will pull us over. But this rests on the assumptions we’re a solid, fixed thing, something a wave can strike and affect. What if we are, as Rupert Spira says, boundaryless experiencing? What happens if this human experience is open? What if we aren’t the figure in the sea, what if there’s only sea?
If there’s nothing to defend, no walls, then experiencing happens; a choiceless receiving of ‘this’ as the way it is, just now. A non-personal view of the present takes us out of the picture in an identified way, and puts us back in as the picture itself. Just the sea, moving. That’s what the sea does, it moves.
Equanimity then isn’t the magical power not to feel, it’s the realisation that there’s nothing to defend from feeling. When we see that there’s nothing here to break or repair except our own faulty expectations, we recognise that these are simply thoughts. Thoughts aren’t true, they’re just another thing that comes and goes, arises and passes away in this experiencing. There’s a stepping back that naturally happens with mindfulness or presence that enables the clear seeing of all of this coming and going, all these waves, big and small.
We need the flexibility to let go of the story of the moment and step back so we can see it through mindfulness/presence or we get pulled into it with all of the, ‘it shouldn’t be this way’, and ‘I need this to happen’.
When we identify as part of the story, of course it feels real. But when we allow this natural stepping back into mindfulness we find an open spacious experiencing, not caught up with arising and passing away, beginning and ending, desire and aversion.
Everything that arises passes away. When we’re caught up in that we lead a mortal life, born and dying as part of this, each day, each moment. It’s said that mindfulness is the path to the deathless, do you see how? Can you see that now? Mindfulness is the open field, receiving this experiencing, not the experiencing itself. It is the knowing of experiencing, without identification with the content.
Focus on the content and you can’t find equanimity, at best you might develop a degree of resilience, which is useful up to a point. Focus on the knowing of all these arisings, just the seeing of them without identification and your experiencing will be equanimous.
When you see this, you develop the skill to pass from one to the other: stepping in to interact and respond, created by the moment; stepping out, returning to the field of ‘boundaryless experiencing’ that is our true nature. Of course, they’re both true as far as that goes, nothing is really wrong or better, but the knowing of this precedes the content, that’s why we say it’s out true nature – as simply knowing or if your prefer, knowingness.