See No Evil

IMG_0633Do you ever wonder why very “evolved” people are rarely annoyed or frustrated by others? Its amazing to behold. They seem to get along with just about everyone in almost every situation with grace and humor. The Dalai Lama is a good example of that.

I think this might be because things only disturb us when they are unwanted. Sweating profusely during a workout is not generally bothersome, but when giving a public talk, it feels like torture. When someone you find appealing flirts with you, you are likely to feel flattered, but when someone you find unappealing does the same, you are likely to feel annoyed. Our preferences, likes and dislikes lead to feelings of aversion.

…if you subdue your anger you will not have a single enemy, and it will be the same as subduing all your enemies – Pabonka Rinpoche, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand

Through practice we get better at being with difficulty. We face aversion, which allows us to get to know it – to see it more clearly. Early on, we may become more attuned to people who bother us as we develop greater awareness of our own unpleasant internal experiences. Over time, we become wise to our preferences, attachments and aversions, seeing them for what they really are – expectations, interpretations, stories, and beliefs. We may even begin to welcome difficulty in as an opportunity for greater learning.

Eventually we see less and less as unwelcome. The bothersome people may appear to be dwindling away, slowly replaced by interesting people and suffering people, inseparable from ourselves. We discover that others just don’t seem to get under our skin like they used to.

…when you really want to meet obnoxious people, they don’t show up! Why don’t they turn up for high-level bodhisattvas (ones who work for the benefit of all beings)? Because high-level bodhisattvas don’t have any anger… Bodhisattvas have such a hard time finding detestable people, whereas we come across them so easily! – Thubten Chodron

So, how dow we develop this imperturbability? Through practice of course. It starts with turning inward and paying attention to what is happening there. Little by little, we dare to trust and feel compassion for ourselves, warts and all, which translates to greater compassion for others. We take ourselves less seriously. This allows us to let go of some of our excessive privacy, self-consciousness, and guardedness. We open to a wider variety of people and allow situations to be as they are, realizing everything is workable. When we are asked for help, we are more likely to give it (if we truly can), being less afraid of being taken advantage of, harmed, or depleted in some way. There is no longer any good or evil, just people like us whose deepest desire is happiness.

The sage sees the delusions,
Not the person with the delusions.

Being With Difficulty

rainbow2Sometimes we get onto the cushion, chair or mat and soften into a deep inner stillness and profound sense of peace. On these days, practice is full of ease. It feels like coming home to ourselves, which can be quite a pleasant place to rest. Other times we experience discomfort in the body, thoughts crowd in like an impatient mob, or intense and overwhelming emotions pour over us. On these days, practice can seem difficult to bear – and yet there is so much to learn if we can open to and even welcome in these challenging experiences.

Bodily Discomfort

If we hold any posture long enough, we will all eventually encounter some level of bodily discomfort. Aches and pains in the body are often the harbingers of unrecognized emotional unease. Even when physical pain is associated with an injury or disease process, its frequency, duration and intensity can be impacted by one’s psychological state. During practice, we can experiment with opening to the experience of physical discomfort so that we can see it more clearly and objectively. The richness and diversity of the topography and trajectory of what we might consider to be unpleasant bodily sensations can be quite surprising. We can learn much about our habits and patterns and develop a measure of equanimity, even around very intense physical sensations.

Discursive Thinking

Contrary to popular belief, the goal of meditation and yoga is not to “empty the mind”. Our minds are always thinking. Even the act of recognizing what is happening inside of us is a form of thought. Rather, it is discursive thinking that can become an obstacle to meditation. This is the tendency of the mind to ramble aimlessly from subject to subject, narrating stories about our experiences. The interpretations we make during this type of thinking is what often leads to judgments of “unpleasant, unsatisfactory, unwanted”, urges to fix, avoid, or distract, and consequently give rise to afflictive emotions. Non-discursive thought involves the direct experience of phenomena – it is immediate, factual, and descriptive. Over time, a dedicated practice allows discursive thinking to recede into the background as the mind becomes more skilled at resting in the now, non-discursively.

Powerful Emotions

Discursive thinking lends itself to emotional reactions because we must make an interpretation in order to have a feeling about something. When we are on automatic pilot, these interpretations can be made in split seconds below the level of awareness. If we aren’t tuned into our own internal experiences, we run the risk of acting impulsively and unwisely in order to hold onto desired emotions (grasping, clinging) or to avoid, fight against, or distract ourselves from unwanted emotions (aversion). The afflictive emotions: passion, aggression and ignorance tend to cause us the most difficulty. But, just as with body sensations and thoughts, we can learn to notice emotion as it arises and observe it with curiosity and friendliness so that we can learn from it.

Mindfulness is intentionally attending to what is already here, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, without judgment. When we impulsively try to avoid that which is both inescapable and difficult, we eliminate a wide swath of experience from which we might learn. How can we respond wisely and with compassion when we are unaware? When approached gently and with a spirit of kindness, we can learn to trust our inner knowing to guide us in skillfully facing any challenge that arises.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

–  Rumi, “The Guest House” from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

Impermanence: Nothing Can Stay

GoodbyeMyFriendNothing endures but change.” ― Heraclitus

One of the marks (or basic facts) of existence in Buddhism is impermanence. This is the observation that everything compounded or conditioned that comes into being is subject to transformation and decay – everything worldly changes or ends. Unawareness of impermanence is considered a type of ignorance in yoga philiosophy.

Ignorance is of four types: 1) regarding that which is transient as eternal, 2) mistaking the impure for pure, 3) thinking that which brings misery to bring happiness, and 4) taking that which is not-self to be self. – Yoga Sutra 2.5

Compounded phenomena are made up of parts. Can you think of anything in this world that isn’t made up of parts?  We used to think the atom was the fundamental building block of matter until we discovered subatomic particles and then eventually quantum scale particles. We keep thinking we’ve found the smallest building blocks and then when find something even smaller.

Conditioned phenomena are dependent upon something else for coming into being. For example, language is a conditioned phenomenon because it needs a human being to think and speak it. Can you come up with anything in this world that isn’t caused by something else – anything that just is, in and of itself, arising entirely independently?

What we view as discrete things might be more accurately conceptualized as interdependent and dynamic processes continually changing and evolving. A common image that helps illustrate this concept is that of waves in the ocean. Waves are not separate from the larger body of water. Spawned through contact with wind and water, they continually arise, transform, and dissolve back into the ocean.

The decisively characteristic thing about this world is its transience. In this sense, centuries have no advantage over the present moment. Thus the continuity of transience cannot give any consolation; the fact that life blossoms among ruins proves not so much the tenacity of life as that of death. — Franz Kafka

Since most everything we experience in this world is impermanent, even our own bodies, thoughts, feelings and perceptions, nothing worldly can bring us lasting happiness. Our suffering increases the more we try to hold onto the things we desire. Believing that we can keep anything forever sets us up for false hopes and unreasonable expectations, because everything we hold dear runs like sand through our fingers eventually.

If all phenomena are impermanent, does anything we think, do, or experience really matter? My understanding is that these things do matter, just not in the way we usually think about it. We tend to think about experience personally in terms of “I”, “me” and “mine”. We ask ourselves, “How does this affect me?” or “What does this have to do with me?” or “What does this mean about me?” This is how we measure value, but we fail to realize that nothing is personal.

In this case, returning to the ocean analogy can be helpful. Just as it is not particularly useful to try to isolate each drop of water within the ocean, we can view our thoughts and actions as part of a greater whole – part of the stream of causes and conditions. Understanding impermanence helps us to let go and let be when it makes sense to do so. If we can learn to be present in the moment without grasping and clinging, we can appreciate what is here now and respond more skillfully, minimizing our part in the perpetuation of suffering.

Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.  ― W. Somerset Maugham

Roots of Suffering: Attachment

Driving on asphalt road towards the setting sunIt is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” ― Seneca

Attachment, sometimes also described as craving, acquisitiveness, lust or desire, combined with the afflictive emotions (anger, anxiety, depression, pride, envy), is one of the roots of suffering in both Buddhism and yoga philosophy. At it’s extreme, it is considered a cardinal sin in Christianity.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.7 states, “Attachment is a separate modification of mind, which follows the rising of the memory of pleasure, where the three modifications of attachment, pleasure, and the memory of the object are then associated with one another.

Attachment causes suffering because nothing is permanent. The concepts and objects we strive after and hold onto and the feelings we have about them always eventually change and transform or end. Attachment also causes suffering because the things we tend to cling to are not what we think they are – it is our stories about them that bring us temporary pleasure. Since contentment comes from within, our attachments cannot provide us with lasting happiness. We are left feeling dissatisfied and we go searching for ever more. In our desperation for happiness, we may even harm ourselves or others in order to try to fulfill our desires. In James 4:2 of the Bible is says (depending upon translation), “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.

Desire is a natural human experience and some forms of attachment can be beneficial. For example, a supportive, nurturing relationship can make life easier and bring added meaning through opportunities for kindness and caring. Also, an attachment to practice and other virtuous habits can be beneficial on the path to spiritual growth. It is said that these beneficial attachments are like the boat that helps carry us to the other shore and must be abandoned upon arrival. The problem with attachment arises when we think our ultimate happiness comes from possessions or external conditions. Can I be happy, whole and complete when my objects of attachment transform or no longer serve me?

There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires. – Dhammapada, Verse 39

It generally isn’t helpful to try to “get rid of” attachments by suppressing or denying them. Rather, we can begin to notice them and attend to them non-judgmentally. When pleasant sensations arise, can we enjoy them without grasping after them? Might we allow phenomena, whether pleasant or unpleasant, to come and go from awareness freely, without any straining or constriction? What do we discover when we notice and sit with urges to grasp and cling? Is there a deeper longing underneath the immediate sense of want? Can we be aware of desires without our happiness depending upon their fulfillment?

One of the antidotes to attachment is generosity – selfless giving, without attachment to outcome. When we give something away, it is an act of letting go of “I”, “me”, and “mine”. This allows us to face the fears that often underly our acquisitiveness and gain the courage to rely instead on our inner resources. Through generosity, we experience a joy that is more powerful and longer lasting than the transient pleasure we experience from acquiring possessions.

If we’re always looking for some object or person or thing to create a sense of completion for ourselves, we miss entirely the degree to which we are whole and are complete in every moment. We practice seeing through our attachments to free the mind from the forces of clinging so we can access a more essential and sustainable feeling of happiness. When this practice is genuine we realize that all of the spaciousness and peace we crave can be found within ourselves. – Sharon Salzberg, The Irony of Attachment

Where is the Yoga?

padangustasana front farYoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. This sounds like a simple thing, but it is by no means easy and must be approached gradually through dedicated practice. A translation of the word yoga is “to yoke”, which implies a union with the whole, the infinite, beyond dualities.

While some of the intentions behind the practice of  yoga are to quiet the mind chatter and transcend the illusion of separation, this is not always what is actually going on in the practice room. I’ve spent a lot of time in a number of yoga studios as a student and a little time as a substitute teacher. Here are some common things I hear from practitioners during practice:

  • “Its too cold or too hot in here.”
  • “Its too bright or too dark in here.”
  • “Can you turn on, change, turn down, turn off the music?”
  • “Its too crowded in here – I need some space.”
  • “You are in my spot.”
  • “When you do that it drives me crazy! Can you please stop?”

These things come up in meditation quite a bit as well:

  • “Its too noisy or its too quiet in here.”
  • “My seat is too high or too low or too hard or too soft”
  • “My posture is too slouched or too rigid or too crooked.”
  • “This guidance annoys me – its too slow or fast, soft or loud, a poor quality of voice.”
  • “I must relieve this itch or ache or pain or thirst or hunger.”

If you find yourself saying or thinking things like these on occasion during practice, welcome to humanity. We all have our preferences as well as our little annoyances and complaints that can come up here or there. If you are new to yoga and other mind training practices, you probably experience these thoughts and urges quite a bit and that is not unusual.

It takes time and consistency for attachments and aversions to begin to recede into the background so we can focus concentration more steadily on the higher intentions of yoga and meditation. Creating a pleasant, distraction free environment can be very helpful in the beginning. More seasoned practitioners understand that when aversions arise, they are merely fodder for practice. They present opportunities and can be worked with if we are open to them. We eventually discover that no amount of adjustment of what is outside of us can bring ultimate happiness. In this way we cultivate equanimity – a calm, balanced state of mind, regardless of circumstances.

If you have been practicing yoga and/or other meditative practices for quite some time and you are still frequently plagued by these thoughts and urges – especially if you often feel compelled to interrupt your practice to comment or act on them – it may be time to ask yourself, “What am I really practicing?” You may be placing your body into postures with skill and ease, but are you really practicing yoga? You may be sitting on a cushion for extended periods, but are you practicing meditation? We all can benefit from this reality check from time to time. Otherwise, our practice just becomes another unconscious habit, further intrenching us in the cycle of attachment, aversion, dissatisfaction and suffering.

If there is no peace in the minds of individuals, how can there be peace in the world? Make peace in your own mind first. – S. N. Goenka

Roots of Suffering: Aversion

field, sunrise and blue skyDid you know that aversion is a form of attachment? This is because it involves desire – the desire to turn away from or avoid something. Aversion is also sometimes called disliking, ill-will, or hatred. When combined with the afflictive emotions (anger, anxiety, depression, pride, envy), it is one of the root or primary causes of suffering in Buddhism and yoga philosophy.

Called kleshas in Sanskrit, these root mental states cloud the mind obscuring reality and creating obstacles to liberation. Aversion obscures reality by turning attention away from what is present, preventing us from truly understanding our experience.

Aversion is a modification that results from misery associated with some memory, whereby the three modifications of aversion, pain, and the memory of the object or experience are then associated with one another. – Yoga Sutra 2.8

Aversion can be useful. When recognized and responded to skillfully, it energizes and motivates us to act for the wellbeing of ourselves and others. It may also serve to unite us against a harmful force. Yet aversion can also be quite seductive. We may get a temporary high from feelings of righteousness and belonging – after all, misery loves company and we can get a charge out of fighting a common “enemy”. However, the longer term consequences of over-reacting to aversion is the elimination of a wide swath of experience from our awareness. How can we respond wisely when we aren’t attending to all the information?

The experience of aversion is most often unpleasant or unwanted. We judge it, turn away from it, or lash out at its perceived source. What if we were able instead to look inside – to turn attention toward the feeling tone of unpleasant/unwanted and investigate it with curiosity? What body sensations, thoughts, emotions and urges to action accompany it? Are there deeper beliefs or more vulnerable emotions that underly it? What happens when we allow aversion to be here without any need to react to it?

The flip side of hate is love – aversion’s far enemy. It makes sense then that antidotes to aversion include lovingkindness and joyful appreciation, both of which are complimentary aspects of love. Lovingkindness is a feeling of goodwill toward self and others – a sincere wish for happiness for all beings. Joyful appreciation is rejoicing in happiness and its causes wherever they arise. It allows us to celebrate the success and good fortune of others. Cultivating these beneficial qualities through practice enables us to open to the entirety of experience, whether wanted or unwanted, so that we can see things as they truly are and respond with wisdom.

…the inherent happiness of love is not compromised by likes and dislikes, and thus, like the sun, it can shine on everything. – Sharon Salzberg, Facets of Metta

Self Compassion

iStock_000024614859_MediumCompassion is a willingness to be open to the suffering of another combined with a desire to eliminate the suffering. It is a seen as a virtue in most cultures and lies at the core of most religious traditions. It is also a fundamental attitude of mindfulness that is cultivated with practice. Compassion has many benefits for both the giver and the receiver and this has been documented in the research. Being compassionate feels good, reduces stress, improves relationships, and is correlated with a number of health benefits.

When we turn compassion inward, we call this self-compassion. While most of us understand the importance having compassion for others and can readily access it with those we care about, treating ourselves with compassion feels unfamiliar and even uncomfortable. But, when we think about it logically, it only makes sense that we could also benefit greatly from practicing self-compassion. In fact, the research is bearing this out. In addition, there is reason to believe when we treat ourselves with compassion, the benefits we receive ripple out to others.

Practicing self-compassion is a way to befriend ourselves. Many of us have learned to treat ourselves as an afterthought, or in some cases, as a barely tolerable nuisance. We would never speak to a loved one the way we speak to ourselves in our thoughts. When a good friend is struggling, we take notice and lend support. When they make a mistake, we give them the benefit of the doubt and are eager to forgive them. How many of us can say we routinely do these things for ourselves?

Learning to notice our own suffering and being willing to take time to observe it with some objectivity is a crucial skill for self-compassion. We often fail to recognize our unpleasant inner experiences and even when we do, we quickly attempt to avoid or escape them. At the very least, we judge ourselves for them, which often causes us further suffering. This gives us little opportunity to understand suffering on a personal level or how to best respond to it. How can we truly be compassionate with others when we don’t fully understand our own experience of suffering?

There are a number of practices that can help cultivate self compassion. You can learn more about these practices through visiting Dr. Kristin Neff’s website, reading books such as Dr. Christopher Germer’s The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, working one-on-one with a mindfulness coach, or taking an 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course. You may be surprised at how befriending yourself impacts your emotional resilience, and consequently, your relationships with others.

If you would grow to your best self
Be patient, not demanding
Accepting, not condemning
Nurturing, not withholding
Self-marveling, not belittling
Gently guiding, not pushing and punishing
For you are more sensitive than you know
Mankind is as tough as war yet delicate as flowers
We can endure agonies but we open fully only to warmth and light
And our need to grow
Is as fragile as a fragrance dispersed by storms of will
To return only when those storm are still
So, accept, respect, and attend your sensitivity
A flower cannot be opened with a hammer.

– If You Would Grow By: Daniel F. Mead

Lessons From the Döns

zendoguardian3I’m a perpetual optimist and naturally pretty content. Research says I’m lucky to be that way, but it has also gotten me into trouble at times. Seeing experience through rose-colored glasses is not clear seeing at all and unexamined contentedness can devolve into complacency. When our world view is clouded by a Pollyannaish attitude and something really painful happens, we can be blindsided, thrown off course, and beset by all kinds of afflictive emotions. This often results in actions that cause suffering for ourselves and others.

Fortunately, life has a way of offering up powerful lessons – if we can be open to them. In Tibetan Buddhism, the döns are obstacles that tend to arise, especially during certain times of the year, bringing depression, irritation, anger, and anxiety to those who aren’t mindful of them. Recently over half of this country was faced with a really big Don – one that many of us didn’t see coming and that we may have dismissed with characteristic idealism. Now that “dön season” is here, we can choose to face our obstacles with courage, understanding there also exists an opportunity for awakening and wisdom.

As a psychologist, I learned that human beings are susceptible to persuasion and illusion. We have certain reliable characteristics that can be exploited if we aren’t mindful. When we live life on autopilot, thoughtlessly reacting to immediate circumstances, we tend to make short-sighted choices. We are even more vulnerable when we are suffering. When we are driven by passionate emotion, we act on desires and fears, rather than responding to what is true. We can be wooed by messages that promise fulfillment, overemphasizing data that supports our wishes and minimizing or dismissing evidence to the contrary. We also tend to rage reflexively against what hurts us if we haven’t trained our minds to make space for careful consideration. If we don’t know ourselves and our tendencies, we become slaves to habit and conditioning.

Humankind has weathered countless dön seasons throughout history and there will be many more ahead. We cannot get rid of the döns, but we can prepare ourselves for them by cultivating mindfulness in our daily lives. When we know ourselves and our habits and when we have learned to make space for wise responding (even under pressure), we can face obstacles with greater skillfulness, resulting in less suffering for ourselves and those around us. This takes consistent practice, but the consequences of doing otherwise can be quite painful, reverberating across generations. We have been presented with a 4-year experiment in which we can experience its unfolding and learn from it – are we willing to be open to it and face it with compassion and courage?

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture. Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.
Mary Oliver, The Messenger

Take Heart, Have Courage, Pass it On

img_1374When life serves up something unexpected, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, we can find ourselves off balance. Even wanted change can be stressful. Uncertainty, fear, worry, hurt, or discouragement can cloud our objectivity and unduly influence our actions. This can cause greater suffering for ourselves and others. How can we best cope? Here is a 3-step process for being with difficulty:

1. Take Heart

The heart is the seat of compassion and it is a useful place to start. Notice and acknowledge your own suffering. Ask yourself what you can do for yourself in this moment? How can you best take care of you, right now? This is not the time to let go of your practice. The good that you have been doing until now will serve you in this moment and today’s practice will serve you in the next.

2. Have Courage

Whatever it is, it is already here. Can we find the courage to be open to it – to face it with curiosity and objectivity? After all, how can we cope wisely with something if we refuse to really look at it – if we can’t see it for what it is? Know that we already have everything we need inside to be with what is. We just have to be willing to experiment so that we can see for ourselves that this is true.

3. Pass it On

Understand that you are not alone in your suffering and that this is our common humanity. Can you transform your own suffering into compassion for others? Spend some time thinking of loved ones, friends, and family who are dealing with their own challenges and sending them lovingkindness. Is it also possible for you to wish for the sincere happiness of those you don’t know, like or understand? After all, if they were truly happy we would all suffer less. If you dare to extend your heart in this way, notice how the practice impacts you and how its after-effects carry over into your day.

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
William Stafford, The Way It Is

Equanimity: Feather or Stone, 1 Arrow or 2?

CuracaoWhen it comes to uncontrollable  events and circumstances, are you more like a stone or a feather in the stream of life? A feather floats on the surface, riding the waves and eddies, allowing the current to carry it. A stone sinks into the mud where it is eroded; gradually worn away by friction until, it too, is inevitably taken by the current. In our culture it is considered admirable to resist or fight against unwanted things and to relentlessly pursue things we want. However, this approach can have problematic consequences when applied indiscriminately.

Acceptance is the decision to be a feather in the stream of experience, rather than a stone. It is allowing what is already here, rather than avoiding, pushing away or struggling against it. Sometimes it makes sense to take action in order to change our circumstances. Other times anything we do will only make things worse. Mindfulness provides space to discern and respond with wisdom.

The immediate, unexamined reaction we have to feelings of aversion can contribute enormously to our suffering. This is illustrated beautifully in a Buddhist teaching about the second arrow:

When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow &, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. – from Sallatha Sutta: The Arrow translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Wisdom comes from a willingness to see things as they are rather than the way we think they should be. A consistent practice of mindfulness, or non-judgmental observation of what arises in any given situation, allows us to gather information we might otherwise miss and to learn from it. This patient accumulation of knowledge creates a sense of trust in experience and cultivates equanimity – balance and calm amidst difficulty.

Meditation teacher Shinzen Young said, “Equanimity is a fundamental skill for self-exploration and emotional intelligence,” calling it a “balanced state of non-self-interference.” Instead of being mindlessly dragged around and dominated by strong emotion or pain, the wisdom and equanimity cultivated through clear seeing bring a calm, undisturbed space in which we have the opportunity to choose our response. We develop the freedom to ask ourselves, “In this moment, will I be a feather or will I be a stone? Will I feel the pain of one arrow or two?”

For a learned person who has fathomed the Dhamma (truth),
clearly seeing this world & the next,
desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His acceptance & rejection are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.

Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

– Sallatha Sutta