How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
Benefits of Mindfulness: Mindful Living Can Change Your Life
Mindfulness 101: A Beginner's Guide
Within meditation there is one form of happiness that trumps all others. This talk explores that kind of happiness and how you can develop more of it.
Today, we're going to be
talking about equanimity.
To begin, let's listen to the
bells to help us settle in.
I first learned about the concept of
equanimity through my studies in Burma.
Although the idea of equanimity and what
it's pointing to can be found in many
different traditions, some of the best
articulations of it and how to cultivate
it do come from the Buddhist tradition.
And what equanimity is pointing to is
a deep groundedness and balance of mind
that is not disturbed by the highs and
lows of internal or external experiences.
From a lay person's perspective,
we might understand this as
just simply being balanced.
But from a contemplative perspective,
a meditators perspective, this
is actually a profound mind state
that can be cultivated over time.
So I want to address both.
The depth of what equanimity can
be and what's possible as a mind
state to be achieved, and also how
we might experience it in our moment
to moment life and why it would be
powerful or even profound in many ways.
So let's start where many
of my stories star in Burma.
When I went to Burma, I did
not really know what to expect.
I just knew that I was going to
be meditating many hours per day,
eating very little and not speaking.
I had an agenda to cultivate a
quality of peace that could exist,
I don't want to say independent of
external conditions, but much less
dependent on external conditions.
And that came with a felt sense
of what I wanted to achieve.
There was an, a sense in my mind
and my body of what I would feel
like once I get wherever there was.
Because of that, many of the
experiences I had throughout that
extended retreat were filtered through
a lens of, does this match up with
what I want or does it not match up?
So how did that look?
Well, in the beginning, I
dealt with a lot of pain.
And anytime physical pain would arise,
my mind would naturally resist it.
Ugh this isn't it.
And get angry that it was here.
Try and focus on the breath,
all in pursuit of creating a
little bit more peace or ease.
Eventually the pain would shift
or I would use some strategies
to help it soften a bit.
And then I go back, I'd be meditating
and maybe I'd have a week where
things were really good and I
felt peaceful and totally at ease.
And sometimes even my body completely
feeling like a body of light, I
have to look down and make sure
my feet were still on the ground.
I felt that great.
And then my mind will go, wow, this is it.
If I could just have more of
this, then I would really be
cruising and life would be so good.
Imagine if I could take this back
into my day-to-day life and raise a
family with this quality of peace.
I mean, this is amazing.
So I would really hold on to that.
And then sadly, that experience would
pass and it might be neutral for a little
bit, or it might go back to pain in
the body or this period I went through.
There was a lot of emotion,
like sadness and grief.
And I went through that and, you
know, I was paying attention to it,
being present with it, but there
was this sense of, ah, this isn't
it, like got to get away from this.
So I'd push, push, try and focus,
but it was focusing on with the
intention to get rid of the bad stuff.
Eventually the bad stuff would shift
and aah, go back to neutrality, then
another good thing would happen,
and I go, yeah, that's it again.
Give me more of that.
And this rollercoaster
went on for weeks, months.
Yes, months, more than weeks.
And when good things were
there, I grasp onto it.
I said, that's it.
And when the painful experiences
came up, I try and be present and
mindful with them, but there was
still this agenda of like pushing.
My, my brain was just so wired and
conditioned to push against the bad
stuff and pull toward the good stuff.
But what happens when you're paying
that careful attention to your
moment to moment experience is
that your mind starts to learn.
It starts to learn that the
more I push against the negative
stuff, well, it doesn't really
make the negative stuff go away.
In fact, it just creates more tension.
So why am I pushing so hard?
And it starts to soften.
And then it sees, well, you know, every
time I grasp for the good stuff, it's
not like the good stuff stays any longer.
And in fact, I create more stress for
myself because I'm gripping so hard.
Why do I grip so much?
And it says, huh?
Maybe I could soften around that.
And slowly as that retreat went on,
when difficult experiences would arise,
my mind would get a little softer.
And when good experiences would
arise, my mind got softer still.
This happened slowly.
But one day, several months into
that retreat, I ran the four, four
month mark, I found that I was
no longer pushing and pulling.
When I would sit down in meditation, there
was this really deep peace, which I can
only describe as hiking up a mountain
with a hundred pound backpack for years
at a time and just the exhaustion of that.
And then finally getting to
the top, being able to sit down
and take that backpack off.
You can imagine the ease
that would come with that.
That's what this felt like.
It was just pure balance, no tension
that came from grasping at good
experiences, no tension that came
from pushing away the bad experiences.
My mind was just able to hold it all.
It was spacious enough to allow
everything to be there and
not make an issue out of it.
And it truly was profound.
In fact, this mind state, at least in
the Buddhist tradition is considered most
similar to that of an enlighted being.
It's the highest form of
happiness we can experience.
There are forms of pleasure that give us
happiness or forms of social interactions,
relationships that give us happiness.
There are forms of wisdom
that give us happiness.
And then equanimity is considered the
pinnacle of what we can experience
in terms of happiness, because we're
no longer experiencing conditional
happiness, where things need to
be a certain way to feel good.
When I got back from Burma,
this lasted for several weeks.
I wish I could say it's
still lasted, but it didn't.
And then I wrote a book and that
just knocked out all the equanimity.
Well, the equanimity was
knocked out a bit before then.
It's very hard to maintain this depth
of balance and equanimity in the real
world, where there are people that need
things from us, difficult relationship
dynamics, lots of stimulation.
It's hard for the mind to get to the
level of concentration next necessary
to access this deep, deep equanimity.
But that doesn't mean we can't
deepen into equanimity and experience
many moments of equanimity.
Having now heard that story in Burma,
I'm sure you can resonate with times in
your life where maybe your mind was a
little bit more still, where something
was happening and you weren't grasping
at it, you weren't pushing away.
You were just able to meet it fully.
Might've been a conversation, might've
been observing a sunset, might've
even been a difficult experience,
like the loss of a loved one.
You were able to fully be there.
Not tormented by the pushing or
pulling, but just holding it with
steadiness, groundedness and ease.
That kind of equanimity, we can actually
experience quite a bit in our lives.
We can experience it multiple
times throughout the day.
It's simply referring to a mind that
is not pushing and is not pulling,
just meeting exactly as it is.
We could say it's a moment of presence.
So the more we practice bringing
mindfulness into our lives, the more
we develop this quality of equanimity.
But I think you could also appreciate
how a daily meditation practice or even
some form of a meditation practice could
be powerful for taking you deeper into
equanimity in your day-to-day life,
because it's simply the willingness to
show up for a series of predetermined
moments, meaning, we sit for five minutes,
10 minutes, 20 minutes of meditation.
And we're just choosing to be with
all of it, regardless of how great
it is or how bad it is, just to
meet it, soften into the experience.
And what I mean by that is relax
the tension that's fighting the
experience, relax the tension that's
grasping at the good experiences.
This is what this moment
is like right now.
The moment is like this.
Right now, it's like this.
That is a mind that is more equanimous.
And the more we do that,
the more we deepen into it.
Equanimity is neither a
thought nor an emotion.
Rather, it's this steady, conscious
realization of reality's transience.
That's a quote I got off of
Wikipedia, so I can't take
credit for it, but it's powerful.
Neither a thought, nor an emotion.
Rather, the steady, conscious
realization of realities transience.
Let that sink in.
Not just now, but for the rest of today.
When you find yourself tensing around
something, take a deep breath, just
relax into how it is right now.
When you find yourself really excited,
but also grasping to keep that excitement,
take a deep breath and see if you could
just experience the goodness while it's
there without needing to maintain it.
It was great being with you today.
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