My focus for this year is equanimity. I’ve been reading about the bodhichitta practices (awakening and nurturing open-heartedness). One of the teachings is of the “Four Limitless Qualities”. These are: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
The last line of my metta practice is “may my life flow smoothly, with ease”. It is slowly dawning on me that this is a prayer for equanimity and that it has little to do with the circumstances – rather it is about coming to a place of rest and ease in all circumstances. Asking for ease isn’t about asking for a break from the unrelenting challenges but rather asking for the expansion of my heart-mind that allows all things with the same open heart and peaceful mind. It is saying an unconditional “yes” to all of life as it unfolds. It is learning to surf the waves of Samara.
My mantra for this year is “this too”. It is from this statement: “I accept unconditionally the unfolding of this present moment in whatever form it takes – this too is allowed and accepted”. To dwell in equanimity is to be free from attachment and aversion. This too. This small happiness, this moment of sorrow, this anxiety, this gratitude. All of it . All of life with its sorrows and joys, rowing towards that wonderful shore of “no preference”, where each moment is welcomed and cherished equally.
It came home to me strongly when I learned of my old blog/facebook friend and ally Nicholas Temple’s diagnosis of prostrate cancer. I began to speak metta over Nick. He was struggling to receive the meds he needed and that the VA wouldn’t pay for until April. Then he found a doctor to provide the meds! I rejoiced – this was an answer for his life to unfold with ease, surely! Then, yesterday he fell, couldn’t get up, was taken to the hospital where they did emergency surgery to remove a tumor from his spine. He won’t walk again.
I faltered. It woke me this morning just after 4:00 a.m. Suddenly, I realized that receiving the meds and losing his ability to walk had little to do with the metta. The smooth unfolding had to do instead with receiving each moment with equanimity. The joy and the happiness, but also the suffering and the tragedy.
We all – each one of us – will encounter illness, old age, loss, and death. Equanimity isn’t about escaping the difficulties in our lives. It’s about opening our hearts to them with equal measure to the joys of this precious life.