The fourth heart quality is upekkha (Pali)/ upekṣā (Sanskriet,
उपेक्षा), which means equanimity.
It is the ‘steady as a rock’ quality, never being overwhelmed. Knowing that no matter what happens, you will be able to be present with your whole being and not narrow yourself down to your emotions.
Opposites and false friends of equanimity
The opposite to equanimity is instability, which can manifest itself as greed, a desire for status and power, or even self-pity and continue to feeling down. The greater the influence of things outside of yourself on how you feel, the less developed your equanimity is.
What looks like equanimity, but isn’t, is indifference or apathy. When you practice equanimity, you are involved but not attached to what happens outside of you.
Equanimity can be practiced in all situations, while the other three heart qualities can be practiced in certain situations ( loving kindness in a neutral environment, compassion in an environment of suffering and co-joy in a joyful environment).
Steady as a Rock
Equanimity is being steady as a rock
Undisturbed in any situation: whether you win or lose, appear good or bad, get praised or reviled and feel sadness or joy. The balance is inside, the outside world does not swallow you up completely.
It is the balance, the continuous perfect balance, in which you can remain open and present. Herein is freedom of your mind. You can tune in to this balance and continue to observe this balance in all circumstances.
By practicing equanimity you remain involved in what happens and at the same time you do not let it control your emotions. You focus on the balance, which remains tangible. Take the time to feel the vibration of what is happening with an open and present heart, to resonate with it without telling stories or to let yourself be carried away with it (so you can be less present). Stay balanced in whatever is the present moment, and don’t let judgments or other feelings interfere.
Only this: being present and staying open in all situations as they arise.
Upekkha / upekṣā meditations
Take mindful action
This heart meditation is again based on mindfulness, presence, openness and ‘non-judgment’. It is the disassembly of events (pain or joy) and their effect (suffering or ecstasy). You create the effect yourself, automatically, but you don’t have to. When practicing equanimity you train yourself to not automatically create an effect.
All events can be used to practice equanimity. Here is an example of an everyday event: cleaning up something.
- Feel whether you like the event or not, without “giving in” to it; instead of attracting it (for example, immediately start working with great enthusiasm) or rejecting it (postponing it), just remain relaxed and open and observe your experiences.
- While cleaning up, you observe that your experiences come and go. Be aware of the changeability of your experiences, without being ‘stuck’ in one of them.
- Stay mindful at what you do exactly; what you pick up, put in a different place, what you throw away, etc. Watch your experiences and realize that the experiences come to you, change and go again – and that you are more than your experiences.
- Be aware of the sense of stability that you may feel / that may become greater as you practice this for longer.
Traditional meditation for equanimity
Another way of meditating on equanimity, more traditional, is to recite the following sentence: ‘All people are responsible for their own karma. Their joys and sorrows stem from their actions and I can’t help it ‘.
This sentence may require some explanation: it is said with loving kindness, NOT with indifference and is not meant to blame people when they are in a difficult situation. With all 4 heart qualities, loving kindness is the starting point, and when people suffer, there is compassion.
This sentence increases the awareness that you do not have to solve or change anything.
This can help to stay more present and feel the balance. You don’t have to change anything. Life has a Goodness in it that we can perceive when we relax openly and presently in what life offers us.
The wisdom of the sentence is also that it indicates not to act reactive, but to rest in equanimity. This gives the space to take appropriate action based on involvement, presence and balance (instead of acting reactive based on the drive to achieve something).
Equanimity – the mindset
The mindset with equanimity is one of acceptance, balance, certainty, being unperturbed. A question that can help with this is: “What if nothing is wrong?”
It is a very nice hypothesis that life as it happens is essentially good. Let this hypothesis permeate; feel the effect of it when you view life from this hypothesis.
Please, write a comment below on the page. I am curious how you experience the balance of equanimity and how you practice it or will practice it.
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