#353 The power of equanimity June 27 21

    The power of equanimity

How do we sustain our sanity in the face of sudden internal and external challenges?

In Zen Buddhist the answer is equanimity.

For many, the word equanimity implies passivity, coolness, indifference, even sort of

 “whatever” .

The Pali word for equanimity is upekkha, which is effectively translated as” balance”.

Visualize a tightrope walker: she/he is walking on a tight cable that we will call life holding a long pole, called emotional mind. In one extremity there is  the negative stuff such as feelings, events and people and on the other extremity the positive stuff. Moving in a perfect balance, this tightrope walker is practicing, in the moment, equanimity .

Too much good stuff and the walker will lose emotional balance because she/he

will look for more and more w/o being ever satisfied, and this craving is causing suffering.

Too much bad stuff and the walker will lose her/his emotional balance also causing suffering.  

The tightrope walker must maintain perfect equilibrium in keeping both extremes under control and we should do the same.

Balance doesn’t come from:

   Wiping out all negative feelings or being trapped in them.

   Accumulating positive stuff or being trapped in them.

And yet, we are conditioned toward extremes.

   When it comes to feeling painful emotions, we may think there’s no way out, and we come to identify ourselves with our negative feelings completely: I’m a negative self.

  On the other hand, as we said before, we are conditioned to accumulate more and more w/o any positive feelings.

So: we have the tendency to be attracted to the extremes that is to be unbalanced.

Equanimity is what frees us from these 2 extremes that attract and can trap us.

Equanimity is the state in which we can recognize, in a mindful way a feeling or emotion:

   Either negative. Accept it as it is and then look for solutions if any.

   Or positive, knowing that it will not last forever.

Both should be treated equally as far their emotional reactions and consequences. 

   What is keeping us from being absorbed by negative feelings and ongoing craving is the essence of equanimity. Equanimity is preventing us from being reactive towards one of the extremes exactly like the tightrope walking and keeping her/his balance by controlling the pole.

In Zen Buddhism literature Equanimity is described as the open door towards serenity and wisdom.

It means having an open mind to everything, able to hold everything. Its essence is complete presence and acceptance of what things, people and events are and not what we want and don’t want.

Again, it does not mean being passive or indifferent since, if there are solutions, we should look for.

Equanimity means OK with pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, guilt and pride in such a way that our hearts are fully open. It means practicing emotional balance all the time, being aware of the both sides of our

emotional coin.

Equanimity doesn’t mean we have no feeling about anything; it’s not a state of blankness. Instead, it is the spaciousness that can relate to any feeling, any occurrence, any arising, and still be free.

You will ask: what is the difference between equanimity and serenity.

Equanimity occurs during an acute episode (feeling, event or people) whereas serenity

is a state of  permanent equanimity. We practice equanimity to achieve serenity.

Thank you

#352 Our Inner prosecutor Jun. 20 21

If we leave our inner prosecutor that I will call Mrs./Mr. Negativity, unrecognized and unchecked, it creates a pattern of negative emotional roller coaster that can undermine our well-being and destroy our serenity. This prosecutor will accuse you of what we did /didn’t, should do/don’t with many negative feelings as consequence. 

These negative feelings are like arrows penetrating your heart and mind.

When self-criticism becomes severe it is affecting our life and even spiritual practice.

We don’t realize that we have fallen into a persuasive negative pattern of thinking about ourselves as defective or broken

How can we subdue our Inner prosecutor?

We never rent and watch the same painful movie 200 times. 

And yet we allow our Mrs./ Mr. Negativity to play painful episodes from the past and present over and over non-stop, almost in a masochistic fashion.

No one, a child, a pet, or a plant, can thrive under that pattern of negative attack.

And yet we allow our inner prosecutor to attack us in this way, repeatedly.

We need to tell her/he that, yes, we are not perfect but it is OK as I will describe soon.

This is a tricky balance: obviously we need to practice proper insight in order to correct our flaws and weaknesses and to prevent mistakes but at the same time we have to learn to accept them.

The Buddha divided all his thoughts into two classes, those that led to serenity and those that led away from it.

The prosecutor relies upon an idea of a negative self—a small self—that is imperfect and must be fixed all the time. This is the source of negative energy and distorted picture of our genuine self. Zen is quite clear about not giving our precious energy to inflictive ongoing thoughts.

If you recognize your prosecutor and stop feeding its mental negative energy, its power will weaken.

How to proceed effectively?

Through a specific mindfulness meditation practice called Metta meaning Loving-Kindness.

We can meditate as the Buddha did, practicing full compassion for all living beings including ourselves regarding flaws, mistake and wrong behavior of the past and present time.

Again, it does not preclude search for correction but it will prevent ongoing negative self-image that many are trapped within.

When our minds become quieter, when we are resting in this very moment, there is no past or future, there is no comparing, no right, no wrong, no bad, no good.

Again, the practice mindfulness- based loving kindness to ourselves does not mean being narcissist. It means looking at our negativity using acceptance and acceptance brings non- emotional feelings allowing proper and pragmatic understanding of our flaws and mistakes. Such non-emotional state should help in not only correcting them but also moving one step further towards serenity.   

Thank you.

#351 Maxim: a friend, a Zen Master Jun.13th 21 by Gaurav.

  • Zen master

    If you look at the meaning of the word Maxim it is a ‘short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct’. I found it very fitting. The concept of a master or guru is central to many eastern philosophies. The idea is simple – in the world of darkness we need a guide who can show us the way. In other words, we seek a master who has transcended desirelessness since desires bring so much of our suffering. I recently realized I have one such master at home already…Maxim. I realized there is a lot to learn from him only if I observe intently. Here are top 3 of the many lessons.

Mindfulness: Maxim is almost always in a meditative state and does not spend time mulling over life. He is forever focused on the present moment. I haven’t seen him planning or stashing away his food for future consumption. He lives life as it comes. All his emotions and physical reactions are driven from the immediate present unlike us where past guilts, and future anxieties dictate much of our present behaviour. I am not sure if our ability to contemplate our condition is a curse or a blessing but trying to be mindful is our attempt at solving our ultimate problem.

Space: Maxim takes us approximately 2 square feet – the smallest footprint in the house. Even so he respects everyone’s space. I may invade his space, but he will only come to me when he is ready to share his love otherwise stays to himself. Maxim lives freely (and completely naked) but is content with basics i.e. food and water. My takeaway – we must minimize our footprint to live a more peaceful life. The more we have the more we tend to worry.

Self-control: Maxim is tremendously focused and composed. I don’t think Maxim harbours any grudges e.g. when I was late in giving him food. He displays tremendous self control – unless he feels threatened, he will simply walk from a situation. He doesn’t want to be liked – I don’t even see him attached to his toys. His ability to stay silent most of the day is one of my biggest learnings…to listen more than I speak. Another is to respect others and give them their space.

While I may have cited Maxim’s example as a guru if you look closely in fact everything alive or not is trying to teach you something. It feels as though consciousness is learning from itself and growing exponentially. The more we become aware of this idea the more we will see how connected we are with the universe. Therefore, be mindful of the stress you introduce…it will invariably affect the entire system. But if you are not in the moment you miss the opportunity to learn, to experience. This is precisely why mindfulness meditation is so crucial…to experience life fully. For those with pets you have a resident guru – just look a little closer.

#350 Thinking thoughtlessly Ju. 06 21

Dialogue between a student and teacher about 3 topics:

About suffering:

Zen says that desire, hate, and illusions are the main causes of suffering and I have to be mindful of them in order to have better control of my emotions and delusion. Right?

YES

But if I want to control my desires, hate or any negative feelings, then I am creating another desire that is to control something. So, what is the point?

The point is these 2 words that you said “ being mindful”.

To be mindful is to pay attention to something w/o analytic thinking that is w/o pre-conceived ideas, attachment, judgment and w/o decision.

Train your brain-mind to be an observer of your feelings rather than them controlling you.

Practicing mindfulness during meditation and on the go will polish your brain-mind to become a mirror reflecting feelings, things, events, and people as they are and not as you want them to be. A Zen mind is a mirror mind. It is just reflecting things w/o attachment, cognition,andw/o thinking…. sort of thinking thoughtlessly. 

About time:

Zen says that we have to live in the present moment, the only existing time, because

 it is only in the NOW that we are alive and experience concrete reality. But I believe that past and future exist because I have memories, pictures and a planning calendar.

BUT IT IS WRONG THINKING

     When the present moment is gone, it is dead by becoming part of the past.

So both past and “past-you” are dead. Pictures and memories will not make them alive.

Both are fiction.

Don’t be a “past-you”. It does not make sense because it will bring you suffering such regrets of what was wrong and nostalgia of what was right.

     When the present moment is gone, it becomes the “next moment” but this next moment is,

 in fact, in the unborn future and the “future you” is also not born yet.

So, both future and “future you” are not born yet. Calendar will not make them alive.

Both are fiction.

Don’t be a ”future-you”. It does not make sense because it will create expectations of what you want and worries of what you don’t want; most of them just thoughts and potential suffering.

Obviously we have to plan using calendars but calendars are only on paper and on our smart phone. Can you predict how and where you will be in 24h, 1 week, and next month? NO

Train your brain-mind to be an observer of the NOW. Practicing mindfulness of the NOW during meditation and on the go will polish your brain-mind to become a mirror reflecting things, events and people as they are and not as you want them to be.

A Zen mind is a mirror mind and, like a mirror, it is just reflecting things w/o attachment, cognition and w/o thinking…sort of thinking thoughtlessly.

About using our 5 senses:

Zen says to practice our 5 senses mindfully as the way to be conscious to our surrounding true reality and be connected to its components so the mind is attached with the body to be one entity rather than being elsewhere doing something else. I don’t get I t!

How often are you mindful to the sound of your car, a taste of a nut, a smell of the grass, the color of a cloud or the contact of warm water on your skin during shower? If you do it, it is analytically for a specific reason. For example, checking the sky for rain.

Being mindful of our 5 senses is to hook up our wild mind to our body. We become then one entity rather than our body doing something, usually routinely, and our mind wondering elsewhere doing something different. At this point, we are mono-thinker because the mind is paying attention to what the body in doing ….. close of being thoughtless. 

Remember this: having a Zen mind is not an extraordinary, supra natural skill to learn.

It means just to be….like a mirror….. in the moment….reflecting present reality as it is.  Thank you