Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Equanimity

They find fault in one sitting silently,
They find fault in one speaking much,
They find fault in one speaking moderately.
No one in this world is not found at fault.
There has been, there is,
     And there will be no person
Who is only criticized,
     Or only praised.

Dhammapada 227-228


I wear a necklace everyday with the Four Immeasurables engraved on it — in Sanskrit on one side, English on the other. It is rather my hope that perhaps the constant rubbing of the prayer for love, compassion, joy and equanimity will somehow rub off on to me and stick.

The one quality I hope for most and the one that most eludes me is equanimity. If only I could be even-tempered and even-handed with all my dealings in the world! I wish I could maintain a calm inner-state no matter what struggles I encounter or conflicts I face. If only I could approach all of it with openness, calmness, candor, kindness and curiosity. 

Yes, please. 

I'd like to order up that personality. And can I get it To Go?

*Sigh*

There is plenty in this world to ruffle the spirit. There are jobs to be lost, cars to break down, bills to pay, sickness to fight, children to guide, lovers to tend, employers to impress, friends to help and family to tolerate. Amidst all of that, it's no surprise that things are constantly going wrong. You simply can't make everyone happy all of the time, and you can't prevent bad things from happening, no matter how large or how small.

But how to approach it all with even-mindedness and balance? How to remain unruffled when the winds are blowing? 

You must seek refuge within. The world outside is full of uncertainty and change. You have absolutely no control over whether you'll get cancer tomorrow or lose your job, to a certain extent. I mean, you can exercise and not smoke, work hard, be helpful and pleasant — and yet  you still can't prevent either of these things from happening anyway.

Some events are simply out of your control. Well, most are. 

It's a very disturbing concept. "What do you mean I'm not in control? That's bullshit!" I hear you, hell, I hear my own mind rebelling against my words. "I'll show you! Watch how hard I'm going to control this life of yours, lady!"

Okay.

You can go on and think that, rant and rage, work and dig at it, and exhaust yourself in the process while you still encounter some sort of tragedy or suffering, misfortune or irritant. The only peace is the peace within, that you yourself have cultivated.

Rude comment on a blog?

Meh. I shrug it off. I've listened to my readers enough now that I get it. All of the comments on my blogs are reflections of the commenters, not me. Now I cock my head to the side and say, "How very interesting!" as I try to figure out what's going on in that person's psyche that they would react this way.

Bad day at work?

I can't make everybody like me or my writing at work either. By the time I've written a piece of advertising copy and it goes to print or appears on the web, hundreds of hands have written on it, commented on it, changed it, disparaged it, praised it, loved it, hated it, didn't notice it, remarked on it,  and re-written it. Am I going to let my life and happiness be swayed by the changing tides of clients, bosses, account people, editing departments, product specialists and other writers? My happiness would be set out to sea if I did. 

Better to watch the process with equanimity, as if it were a separate entity than myself. These words on paper are certainly from me, of me, but they are not me. They change once they hit the paper, they change once the reader sees them, digests them, and filters them through their brain and the memories therein.

What my words become after that is entirely out of my control.

And so I will cultivate this equanimity. I will sit and quietly observe. I will watch the tide of my emotions as they crest and subside. I will turn my focus away from my own thoughts and see what is happening outside of it. I will notice how very different the world is from my own view, my own feelings, my own experiences.

And I will marvel at it all.

I will not own other's feelings nor their reactions to me. I will not own my successes and failures. I attach myself to none of this. I will not be washed out to sea.

I will stay here.

In the calm waters of my mind. My mind is an ocean, fathomless, deep and still.

I will practice this, and this alone will last. This alone endures.

Namaste.

48 comments:

  1. What you describe is something I try for in my day-to-day life. I don't always achieve it. I'm human. Humans have human weaknesses. Knowing that allows me to keep brush myself off and start again.

    You write about this beautifully.
    *applause*
    LaFang

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  2. Ahhhh, yeah, equanimity wouldn't be something that would be written on my tombstone either.

    I cannot see this:

    "Sally was an equanimous person"

    Shame really. I have to work on it.

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  3. I too struggle with that balance. Sometimes it just feels good to be a bitch and let the world know they suck at times!

    Really though, I like the control and I have learned to hold a space for the ones that offend me, and then burn it.

    Great post!

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  4. Just reading your piece actually made me feel more peaceful, thanks for sharing it.

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  5. I love it when you write about Buddhism. It always leaves me feeling serene, even moreso than when I read about it in the collection of books. I think it has a lot to do with the way you write, but also... In striving along side you somehow.

    This made me think of my Grandaddy- he was a feisty little Irishman, but he used to say, "All THAT" the outside world- "is out of your hands. Crazy things are going to happen, don't worry about that, just worry about that. It's all in how you handle it." I think he would have been annoyed if I told him he was a good Buddhist:) ~OM

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  6. In many ways it sounds as if there are similarities between what you practice and the Serenity Prayer - asking for the wisdom to know the difference between the things we can change and the things we cannot.

    As for the wild currents we navigate, as Roseanne Roseannadanna said, "It's always something."

    Man I miss Gilda.

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  7. Okay... If you remove the "just worry about that" part, that's what he said. I don't know how the hell that got there.

    But I'm serene! Bwahahahahaha!

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  8. I seriously do love your Buddhism posts. They always give me something to think about. Equanimity has nothing to do with horses, does it?

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  9. I agree with the other commenters. Just reading this made me feel peaceful, it put my mind at ease.

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  10. Realizing that people and their actions are out of your control is a very sad process. I raged against it too. It's better now, but I'm still trying to cultivate that "meh" attitude towards insignificant events. When I get my first mean comment, I'm coming back here.

    Also, is there YGTBKM on CD? I want to play it at night so I can dream happy dreams.

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  11. We come into this world head first and go out feet first; in between, it is all a matter of balance.
    ~ Paul Boese


    Namaste

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  12. I love how your mind works! Bag it and send some this way!

    Captain Charles

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  13. Thank you for sharing this today, the fax machine was about to meet an early end..... ;)

    Seriously though? This is something we all need to remember. Thank you.

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  14. When I started poking around the world of Buddhism, I met someone who encouraged me to abandon hope (because hope leads to desire, leads to bad feelings, leads to a diminished personal state - you know all this already).

    It was probably the most profound and most difficult piece of advice anyone had ever given me. I admire all those who strive to attain detachment and equanimity, though it's a hard road.

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  15. I know no such thing. Giving up hope sounds hopeless, and there is nothing hopeless about Buddhism.

    It gives me hope.

    And I am not detached, I am an observer, keenly interested and compassionate. I am attached to life and living, but am not attached to the results.

    ;-)

    "The fact that there is always a positive side to life is the one thing that gives me a lot of happiness. This world is not perfect. There are problems. But things like happiness and unhappiness are relative. Realizing this gives you hope."

    – Dalai Lama

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  16. Wonderful!

    Namaste

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  17. I love this post. Reminded me of the past 3 or 4 weeks i went through. Letting go of it all is not always easy but this post brings us back to what it should be.

    "You must seek refuge within."

    So true. :)

    "You have absolutely no control over...and yet you still can't prevent either of these things from happening anyway."

    Must be reminded of this ALL the time. Thank you for doing it today.

    "Some events are simply out of your control."

    Ommmmm!

    Have a great day! *Ommmm!*

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  18. equanimity?

    Been through the 12 steps I see.

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  19. I have not personally. I don't think AA has a monopoly on equanimity. The Buddha laid claim to it about 3,000 years before Bill W.

    ;-p

    Take that, Serenity Prayer.

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  20. I also love your spiritual posts. They always make me feel like I'm not the only one struggling with maintaining peace in my crazy world. You are inspirational Mandy.

    Namaste.

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  21. I've always felt that one of the chief reasons there is so much angst and anger in the modern world is because of the fact that we have so little control over what happens to us. And that's bad, because it's not going to change except to get worse. So here's to saying goodbye to the need to be in control. Relax and let the waves wash over us.

    ~Mickey Joe~

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  22. Namaste, bitches! (How I miss the bitches!)

    *fist pump*

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  23. I'm not a Buddhist, Mandy, but I do believe that I can not change anything except the way that I react to life and all the aspects of it.

    I try to accept that things are as they are.

    But I'm human too and I exhibit some bad moments.

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  24. whoa. this made me cry.

    ~Bangin

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  25. You can please some of the people some of the time... on a good day.

    Smalls x

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  26. You really do have a wonderful way with words!

    You know, it is well within our power to avoid cancer. It's all about diet and nutrition and the lifestyle we lead. Sugar causes cancer. Your body doesn't really know the difference if you eat real sugar (sweets) or high carb processed foods... Funny how they don't tell us that even AFTER we get cancer...

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  27. So I had a dream last night that I hung out at your house...with Crackster...and Donk. It was a bizarre dream but you were warm and welcoming in it, so warm in fact I wouldn't leave until practically forced out. They say misery loves company but I think happiness is just as appealing and it was nice seeing you guys that happy. *stalks*

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  28. You always screw up my normal M.O. You may have never noticed before, but ahem, I tend to leave stupid goofy comments and keep it light. This is good stuff Mandy. I will just praise you and thank you this time.

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  29. This is something I try to do every day, and often struggle with. Thank you for putting it into words so beautifully.

    It's interesting for me to read this. Long ago, when I was searching for my spiritual identity, I read about Buddhism. It interested me, but I didn't look into it much then. I thought I found my path elsewhere. Over just the past few years, I have realized that perhaps that was the path that I needed to follow for a time, but it really didn't fit who I am. Very recently, I have felt myself more drawn to Buddhism again, yet, I haven't had the opportunity to find out much more about it. However, the bits I catch here and there really represent how I have tried to live my life on my own. Perhaps it is time for me to find out more. Any suggestions as to where to start?

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  30. Can I come hang out there too? In your mind where the waters are calm? I can detach from a lot of stuff...but boy do I get fired up about equal rights and bad marriages and global warming. I need to hone my meditation skills...

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  31. stuck in a meeting, dreaming of filthy sex. a good distraction.

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  32. i see you judging me.

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  33. If I may be the smartass, preachy Buddhist buddy for a moment....

    "IF ONLY I COULD be even-tempered and even-handed with all my dealings in the world! I WISH I COULD maintain a calm inner-state no matter what struggles I encounter or conflicts I face. IF ONLY I COULD approach all of it with openness, calmness, candor, kindness and curiosity"

    So NOT self.

    You are plagued with desire but I still love you.

    Here... have a cookie. ;P

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  34. Hi Mandy,

    Namaste.

    You have a profound impact
    with your words,
    the blog & comments.

    Food for thought are your
    words and sometimes one
    will last a lifetime.

    I think about your reply
    to one comment I left and
    can say: "I'm still
    speechless"

    As for those who are
    not pleased, I say they
    can not see the forest
    for the trees and have
    no idea of their loss.

    Sincerely,
    Richard

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  35. sometimes we can't think that deeply. Our needs are more primal and survival motivated. Right now, more physical and sexual. We can be more thought provoking next week. right?

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  36. The fact that your are striving for it says more about you than the fact that you sometimes struggle with it.

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  37. Don Italo:

    We are all plagued with desire. It is human to desire. The way to end desire is not by judging it, but by recognizing it, sitting with it and watching what happens to it.

    I'm comfortable with my desires and I am comfortable admitting them and sitting with them. I know they will rise and fall away so long as I don't battle them.

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  38. D:

    One of my favorite first books on Buddhism is Guy Claxton's "The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World."

    Another great Buddhist writer and psychologist (a marriage of two loves!) is Mark Epstein. "Going To Pieces Without Falling Apart," is my personal favorite.

    Give those two a shot and feel free to email me for more recommendations after you've read them! I'd love to hear your reactions.

    Namaste.

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  39. Wow I really love all the response to this. I sometimes think my Buddhist mumbo jumbo is Yawn City. Really glad to see all the comments.

    Go Team Buddha!

    *Pumps fist*

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  40. I got a "Immeasurable" for ya.

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  41. Love it! I took some great classes on this very thing and found it excrutiatingly difficult because I am so poisoned with anger.
    I love your blog and think you are amazing!
    May you live your life free of conflict and pain.
    Rachael

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  42. You spend an awful lot of time and words addressing folks who don't "get" your strawberry ice cream kind of expressing yourself.

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  43. How funny that you spend yours reading it.

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  44. "I sometimes think my Buddhist mumbo jumbo is Yawn City."

    Goddammit, I love your Buddhist posts! I think you should publish a collection of them! So preach it sistah!

    I remained equanimous as it typed that...

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  45. Wonderful blog.

    Sandra

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  46. That was beautifully written, but can you really do it? I'm always trying to figure out how to live in the moment. I'm a total failure at letting go like that. This is because I was born with Worry Wart tattooed on my forehead. So it's not my fault.

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