Exploring Equanimity: A Deeper Look

Last week, Andy helped us explore the topic of equanimity: what does it mean to you and how do you seek to practice this in your life? This week, we will continue with this theme, integrating more of Thay’s teaching and looking deeply at our own experiences with (or without) equanimity.

In “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”, Thay describes the Four Immeasurable Minds – love, compassion, joy and equanimity. “They are called “immeasurable” because, if you practice them, they will grow in you every day until they embrace the whole world. You will become happier, and everyone around you will become happier too.”

Turning towards equanimity, specifically, one of its characteristics is the ability to see everyone as equal – not discriminating between ourselves and others. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is particularly difficult when I am in conflict. When you are strongly in disagreement with someone, to what extent can you …“shed all discrimination and prejudice, remove all boundaries between yourself and others? As long as we see ourselves as the one who loves and the other as the one who is loved, as long as we value ourselves more than others or see ourselves as different from others, we do not have true equanimity.

So, what can we do to practice equanimity? Thay is quite specific: “We have to put ourselves into the other person’s skin and become one with him if we want to understand and truly love him. When that happens, there is no “self” and no “other”. 

A summer breeze can be very refreshing; but if we try to put it in a tin can so we can have it entirely for ourselves, the breeze will die. Our beloved is the same. He is like a cloud, a breeze, a flower. If you imprison him in a tin can, he will die. Yet many people do just that. They rob their loved one of his liberty until he can no longer be himself. They live to satisfy themselves and use their loved one to help them fulfill that. That is not loving, it is destroying. You say you love him, but if you do not love his aspirations, his needs, his difficulties, he is in a prison called “love”. True love allows you to preserve your freedom and the freedom of your beloved. That is equanimity.

For love to be true love, it must contain compassion, joy and equanimity. For compassion to be true compassion, it has to have love, joy and equanimity in it. True joy has to contain love, compassion and equanimity. And true equanimity has to have love, compassion and joy in it. This is the interbeing nature of the Four Immeasurable Minds. You can watch Thay describe this in the video. 

While it is tempting to look at global and national events, and tell ourselves that equanimity is impossible, I invite you to start at home: look deeply at your relationships with family and friends. To what extent have you shed discrimination and removed boundaries? To what extent is your love possessive or liberating? If you notice a pattern, practice with that. Put yourself in the other person’s skin and see how that feels.

 Please bring your insights and experiences on Monday night.