A key insight of Buddhist philosophy is that the highest goal to strive for should not be boundless happiness - since that is bound to disappoint - but instead a sound evenness of mind, equanimity. Equanimity requires us to overcome attachment, to brace us against the loss of even what is most dear to us.
As part of our regular practice we may try to seek this evenness. Prepare ourselves for the struggles ahead and find solace in the belief that we must not be overly joyful to have a good life (although when joy does find us, we may embrace it).
- Take four deep breaths.
- Think of something that troubles you. This might be something that has happened, might happen or a general state of things.
- Accept that difficulties are a part of life. We may never be free of events or thoughts that trouble us.
- Imagine yourself in ten years time looking back at what concerns you now. Will you feel about it in the same way? Or will the sharpness of the feeling have subsided, will you be able to look at it in a calmer way?
This practice is motivated by something I came across in the book 'Positive Intelligence' by Shirzad Chamine. Here the technique of 'Flash Forward' was suggested as a possible way to become emotionally stronger. Essentially this technique involves imagining ourselves towards the end of our lives and looking back at a decision we are about to make. What decision would our older, hopefully wiser, self recommend us to take? I think this is a great way for us to think about what faces us in our lives right now and provides an excellent way to detach ourselves from seemingly pressing matters.
Finding equanimity though requires more than just following this practice or others. It requires finding a whole new perspective of life and our place in it. We need to become very good at recognising our own feelings and desires and becoming their master rather than being controlled by them.
Finding equanimity is also something which can hardly be achieved in isolation. Other practices such as finding compassion, love, understanding the nature of interbeing and impermanence are critical for us to achieve true and lasting equanimity.
Just as a mighty boulder stirs not with the wind, so the wise are never moved either by praise or blame.
Dhammapada Verse 81
Image credits: Frank Winkler