Category: Theravāda

Equanimity by Joseph Goldstein

 

This evening we will do the last of the Brahamviarjas.

Is the meditation on equanimity.

 

Equanimity is that quality of mind of impartiality.

Imperturbability.

Its far enemy, its opposite, it something that’s quite familiar, the reactive mind.

 

Equanimity is that quality of mind which receives everything without preference for one or another.

Perhaps best understood in the teachings of the 3rd Zen Patriarch.

Famous lines, “The great way is not difficult for those that have no preferences.”

The mind is that open, that receptive, that impartial.

This tremendous strength, tremendous ease.

 

Sometimes when we do the equanimity meditation, especially with the particular words that are used in the meditation.

Sometimes people feel as if it’s a quality of puling away from or indifference to what’s happening.

Of course that’s the near enemy of equanimity.

Indifference.

 

It looks like equanimity but it’s really a quality of pulling back rather than opening to.

So the phrase that’s used in this meditation — and again we’ll start and go through the whole sequence tonight.

 

We start with a neutral person.

See if you can conjure up a person whose still neutral.

Find someone for whom you have easily, equanimous feelings.

And the lines that are used, the words that are used.

 

“You are the heir, or the inheritor, of your own actions.”

“Your happiness, or unhappiness, depends on your actions. Not upon my wishes.”

 

The tone by which we say this is all important.

Because it’s very easy to use these words in a dismissive way.

In a blaming way.

“You are the heirs of your own actions — regardless of what I wish for you.”

So watch for that tones.

 

Rather than that, the great power of equanimity and the great power of the practice is it brings right into the moment the widom factor.

It’s really seeing things in a very clear way.

“Yes, all beings are the heirs of their own actions.”

 

We can have loving wishes and compassionate wishes, and wishes of sympathetic joy..

But ultimately people’s happiness will depend on their actions.

 

And it’s in fact through the wisdom of this equanimity, of seeing this, that we can then feel compassion for people who are doing things —  creating suffering for themselves.

Or feel joy for the people who are creating the conditions for happiness for themselves.

Equanimity is the mind state that actually contains the seeds of all the others.

When we understand it as being expression of the wisdom mind.

 

Whereas you do the phrases, really hold that understanding in your mind and in your heart.

That it’s really a statement of how things are.

And the more clearly we and all  others realize this,  the more possibilities for happiness there is.

 

 

The more possibilities of happiness there are for us.

All beings, ourselves included, are the heirs of our own actions.

Our happiness or unhappiness depends on our actions.

Not simply upon our wishes.

That’s the phrase that we use.

 

 

Again, imbue it with wisdom.

Imbue it with that understanding.

Seeing that out of that wisdom, come all the other brahamvijaras.

It’s the foundation for the others.

 

 

Sit and call some neutral person to mind, someone you don’t have strong feelings for one way or another.

It could be someone on the retreat, someone you know from outside.

See if you can hold the image or hold the sense of that person.

 

Repeating the phrases,

“You are the heir of your actions.

Your happiness and unhappiness depends upon on your actions.

Not upon my wishes.”

 

 

Keeping the sense of the image of the person as clearly as possible.

Repeating the phrase.

And watching the nuances in your own mind.

Watch the tone.

 

 

“You are the heir of your actions.

Your happiness and unhappiness depends upon on your actions.

Not upon my wishes.”

 

Be concentrated on the meaning of the words and be with them as a gift of wisdom.

 

 

See if you can begin to feel that sense of equanimity, evenness.

You are the heirs of your own actions.

Your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions. Not upon my wishes.

A mind that is resting in wisdom.

 

 

You have that sense of neither attraction nor indifference.

Just the space of openness of how things are as they are.

You might call to a benefactor.

Repeating the same phrase of understanding.

 

 

Keeping the benefactor in mind.

Expressing this gift of wisdom.

Resting in equanimity.

 

 

“You are the heirs of your actions.

Your happiness and unhappiness depends upon on your actions.

Not upon my wishes.”

 

 

Finding that place of balance between attraction and indifference.

A place of simple openness, of evenness.

Of equanimity.

 

You can either stay with the benefactor or call a good friend to mind.

Seeing if you can remain in this space of equanimity.

 

Holding a good friend in the light of wisdom

“You are the heirs of your actions.

Your happiness and unhappiness depends upon on your actions.

Not upon my wishes.”

 

See if you can offer this gift of wisdom to a person who is difficult.

As you repeat the phrases, that are imbued with wisdom rather than judgement or blame.

 

See if it’s possible to go a deep and abiding equanimity in regards to one’s own life.

“I am the heir of my own  actions.

My happiness and unhappiness depends upon on my actions.

Not simply upon my wishes.”

 

Now letting the mind expand and open to include large groups of people.

All women.

All men.

The heirs of their own actions.

Their happiness and unhappiness depends upon their actions. Not upon their wishes.

 

All awakened beings.

All unawakened beings.

Are the heirs of their actions.

Their happiness and unhappiness depends upon on their actions.

Not upon my wishes.

 

 

All devas.

All human beings.

Lower beings.

You are the heirs of your own actions.

Your happiness and unhappiness depends upon on your actions.

Not upon my wishes.

 

 

Let the mind open to embrace all beings everywhere.

From that place of impartiality.

The place between attraction and indifference.

Place of openness and equanimity.

All beings are the heirs of their own karma.

Their happiness or unhappiness depends on their actions.

Not upon my wishes.

 

After every phrase is the gift of wisdom.

No place of impartiality.

Non-reactivity.

 

 

We are all heirs of our own actions.

Our happiness and unhappiness depends on our actions.

Not simply upon our wishes.

Notice the quality of mind as you repeat the phrase.

Equanimity is a refined and subtle state.

 

Often we find our minds caught in one extreme or another.

Likes and dislikes.

Attractions or aversions.

Interesting to really pay attention as you do the phrases.

 

 

Simply to watch the nuances

When the mind is moving back into that near enemy of indifference.

If it feels cold, it’s not equanimity.

It’s a not caring.

Or if the mind is getting agitated in some way then it’s certainly not equanimity.

 

 

And it’s through practice through the act of repetition.

We really touch the quality of

It’s not leaning towards or leaning away from.

It’s just there.

 

And in that state, it is imbued with wisdom.

From that place of wisdom all the other brahamaviaras come.

When we have this understanding.

So work with it — especially during this week when we pay attention .

to the subtle mind.

 

 

When it’s developed, equanimity has a tremendous power.

Embrace suffering, embrace joy.

Keeping that sense of joy.

Be equanimous.

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Mindfulness of Breath with Ram Dass

 

This meditation is drawn from Theravada, or southern Buddhism.

It’s called Anapana and it is just bringing you to right here and it is done through the breath.

 

So it is common to everyone in this room at this moment.

Of all of our individual differences, we are all breathing in, breathing out.

This process is one that is like, if you can imagine a flower and the center of the flower and then the petals coming out of the flower.

And the center is called your primary object in meditation and the petals are all the thoughts that keep coming out from that center.

 

In this case our primary object of meditation is our breath.

We will focus on our breath going in and our breath coming out.

You can do this two ways.

 

One is by focusing on a muscle that is in the solar plexus that every time you breathe in it moves in one direction and every time you breathe out it moves in another direction.

Rising, falling, rising, falling.

 

Or you could focus at the tip of the inside of your nose.

And as the air goes by you will feel a slight whisper of air on the in breath and as the air goes out you will feel a slight whisper of air on the out breath and you are like a gate keeper at the gate.

 

The cars go in and the cars go out.

You don’t follow them to see where they go you just notice the breath going in, breathing in, the breath going out, breathing out.

 

So whichever one is easiest for you, pick one now and stay with it for this period of 15 minutes, either the muscle in your solar plexus, that is rising and falling or the air going by the tip of your nose breathing in, breathing out.

 

Your job in the most gentle possible way is to merely keep your awareness focused on your primary object.

Now it is going to wander.

Your awareness is going to be grabbed by many thoughts.

 

You’ll sit down and you’ll say, breathing in, breathing out. And then the thought will come, “this will never work.”

 

Now you can either take the thought that this will never work and immediately go off on another train of thought, even though I am giving you instructions you just ignore them, and then the meditation is over.

 

That’s okay.

 

Or at some point you’ll say “gee, all I was going to do for these 15 minutes was watch my breath and this is another thought, I’ll just let it go and I’ll go back to my breath.”

The art is not to get violent with your other thoughts. Don’t get guilty because you are thinking them.

Don’t even try to push them away.

Merely very gently again and again bring your awareness back to the primary object of meditation.

 

Let each thought be another petal in the flower. Keep coming back to the center, back to the center, back to the center.

So with eyes closed and body straight as is comfortable for you to sit, it’s good to keep straight if you can – your head and neck and chest – bring your awareness either to the muscle in your abdomen or to the breath passing the tip of your nostrils and notice the breath either rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.

 

If your breath gets fast or slow it doesn’t matter, just notice it.

Don’t change it but just notice it. You are merely remaining aware.

Any sounds, smells, sensations just let them come and let them go and bring your awareness back to either rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.

 

If your mind wanders just notice it and bring it very gently back to breathing in breathing out or rising and falling.

 

Wherever your mind is now, just notice where it is and very gently bring it back to rising and falling, breathing in, breathing out. If it helps to say those words inside yourself with each breath it is perfectly okay.

 

All the sounds, everything that comes into your ears, just notice it as another thought and come back to your breath. There is nothing you need to think about now other than breathing in, breathing out or rising and falling.

 

Notice the shape and form as the breath goes by – beginning, middle, and end of the in breath, the space, the beginning, middle, and end of the out breath, the space.

 

If you experience agitation or confusion or boredom or bliss or anything just see it as more thoughts. Notice it and bring your awareness back to rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.

 

If you begin to doze take a few deep intentional breaths. Rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.

 

All the feelings in your body, the sounds, the sensations, the tastes, the smells, the sights, just notice them coming and going bring your awareness back to the primary object of meditation.

 

Firm your seat, head straight, rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.

 

There are three more minutes left. Use these three minutes consciously. Gently but firmly each time your mind wanders bring it back to rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.

 

Be vigilant but gentle. Bring the awareness back to the basic primary object of meditation. Basic attention to the breath.

 

Okay.

 

Om.