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
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
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.