Tao Te Ching
Equanimity is the quality or characteristic of being calm and even-tempered. As we use it, it has the connotation of being centered, at peace, adaptable and unflappable. It is a powerful value in Eastern cultures. The equanimous person is able to live life without being knocked off center. He or she takes life's joys or hardships as they come without becoming too attached to a particular condition of things. The equanimous person remains composed come what may. This is considered virtuous.
In the West, the virtuous person may be one who has won the struggle (for now) against evil. At least in the religious sphere, we value restraint through suppression of unseemly impulses. We find ourselves in an unending conflict between good and evil. We gain merit by following the path of good and avoiding evil. We are ever trying to determine which is which. The tension in this process offers scant chance of attaining calm. No matter how saintly one is there will always be temptation.
Western material culture discourages equanimity and encourages dissatisfaction. Advertisers want us to want. Producers want us to consume. Science never rests in expanding the boundaries of knowledge. We want to be passionate because passion drives us toward our goal. If we can energize ourselves we can accomplish those things that we believe will make us happy. Unfortunately, as we chase our desires we may find ourselves on a treadmill. Desire arises and is either frustrated or fulfilled. If fulfilled, it is followed by another desire. If unfulfilled, it leads to dissatisfaction and more striving.
Equanimity implies mental balance and wisdom. When we attain equanimity we may pursue our desires, but we are not overwhelmed with disappointment when they are foiled. We seek the good and avoid evil because it is in our nature; it is the way of nature. When evil prevails we know this is temporary. When good prevails we know this is temporary. We understand that inconvenience is part of life, and life is not always fair. We move on emotionally from our losses and we share our gains.
To attain the condition of equanimity one must know one's own mind rather well. We must examine our attachments and aversions. We must see our self-delusion for what it is. We must forgive ourselves for our failings and forgive others for theirs. To find tranquillity we must be grounded. To be grounded we must be connected to that which supports us. We must learn to connect with something bigger than ourselves.
This week take time to turn your attention inward. Spend time in quiet meditation. Notice your thoughts and emotions as they come and go. Without clinging to the thoughts or emotions, notice which of them tend to disrupt your calm. Notice where your tender spots are. Notice what disturbs your tranquillity. When tension or anxiety arises, remind yourself to relax and breathe calmly. Remind yourself that everything changes. Nothing will be the same in the future as it is today. Remind yourself that from each problem arises opportunity. Watch the world of your sensations rise and fall. Look to the root of your thoughts and sensations. Return to the source in stillness.
© 1998-2002 Tom Barrett