Saturday, May 06, 2006

Pema Chodron: Cultivating Equanimity

[image source]

To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity. We train in staying with the soft spot and use our biases as stepping-stones for connecting with the confusion of others. Strong emotions are useful in this regard. Whatever arises, no matter how bad it feels, can be used to extend our kinship to others who suffer the same kind of aggression or craving -- who, just like us, get hooked by hope and fear. This is how we come to appreciate that everyone's in the same boat. We all desperately need more insight into what leads to happiness and what leads to pain.

It's easy to continue, even after years of practice, to harden into a position of anger and indignation. However, if we can contact the vulnerability and rawness of resentment or rage or whatever it is, a bigger perspective can emerge. In the moment that we choose to abide with the energy instead of acting it out and repressing it, we are training in equanimity, in thinking bigger than right and wrong. This is how all the four limitless qualities -- love, compassion, joy, and equanimity -- evolve from limited to limitless: we practice catching our mind hardening into fixed views and do our best to soften. Through softening, the barriers come down.

~ Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty

After sitting with this quote this morning, I want to make this a part of my daily practice. My tendency is to form opinions (right or wrong, good or bad) very quickly. According to the Myers-Briggs system (as of five years ago, anyway), I am an INTJ, with the J standing for judging. When trying to operate in an Orange meme environment, this has served me well. In my life now, not so much.

I am so quick to form an opinion that I don't even see the space Chodron talks about in which we can stop the process. And, of course, she would be the first to tell me to start where I am. First become aware that I am constantly discriminating between aversion and attraction, the primary motivators for judgments.

So that's my goal. I'm going to get a little notebook that will fit in my pocket and try to record as many instances as possible of this process happening. I'll see it all over the place, of course, now that I am going to pay attention to it. That can only help.

I want to be less attached to things and to feel less aversion to things. I want to work toward the equanimity of the Buddha in the picture at the top of this post. So I begin with intention and let everything flow from there.

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