Thursday, September 8, 2011
Develop the mind of equilibrium.
You will always be getting praise or blame,
but do not let either affect the poise of the mind:
follow the calmness, the absence of pride.
Equilibrium, equanimity, is one of the Four Brahmaviharas.
I like to think of equanimity as finding ones sea legs on a ship in the midst of the seas natural swell and drop.
Life, like the ocean, can appear glassy calm one day, stormy the next. We can be fogged in, becalmed, set adrift or caught in the doldrums.
And everyone knows what it's like to be caught in your own personal Bermuda Triangle, sucked into the vortex, never to be heard from again. As they search for life, even our friends and family run aground. In fact, we often feel better (for a moment) if we've pulled everyone under with us, then later we just feel guilty for doing so!
Suddenly, without any explanation, the sea is calm, the wind is high. With no horizon in sight, all is vast and open, and we are as ephemeral and happy as a ray of sunshine!
We are as full as the sails that gather the wind!
A ships ballast is found in the center of the hull, from bow to stern, and this is what creates superb equilibrium to weather all conditions. This is what keeps the ship from toppling and allows it to sway with the energy of the ocean.
My family on both sides are long time ship builders, fishermen and ocean travelers, and we joke that our veins run with salt water! As a child, I thought everyone worked on boats, or had boats piled up in the yard, waiting to be launched.
I was proud to claim Black Beard the Pirate a distant relative...at least it made for good story telling...and who knows?
So it's not much of a stretch for me to imagine equanimity as the ballast of a beautiful wooden sailing ship, providing the weight and gravity to remain upright and buoyant.
It's a beautiful image for me.
I am both boat and the captain on deck!
Sometimes, the muscular memory of my sea legs, comes as naturally as breathing. No need to even think about keeping my balance.
Sometimes my legs are like noodles, or worst yet, uncooked noodles, so rigid and inflexible I'm prone to breaking down in a heap.
Second Mate is yelling, "Who the *#$#! is at the helm!"
I am sometimes both at the same time, and this is where equanimity is somehow at its most profound level.
These places of simply being are a razor's edge, a place of equipose and stillness, even in the midst of suffering! Even in the midst of great turmoil, activity, joy, tumult, gladness....
If we can trust that our bodies, our heart-minds, will provide ballast in all of these places, while we are in the midst of being so human, we begin to see that equanimity is our birth right, and our practice reminds us of our "sea legs".
We possess this balance, embedded deeply within our human nature, along with our compassionate hope for all humans to experience equanimity. In this way we see one another, we hear one another, we experience one another authentically.