Equanimity – Beyond Balance, into Something New

Equanimity comes at the end of several key lists in Buddhism and is considered a culminating practice by many. However, a strategy of waiting until you nearly reach the end of the path to develop equanimity may not yield the greatest fruit. Jeff led our continued exploration of cultivating equanimity featuring excerpts from three short talks by Matthew Brensilver from a five-talk series on equanimity given at the Insight Meditation Center.

Matthew reminds us that equanimity is not passivity. Instead, equanimity enlivens our commitment to non-harming and to eliminating suffering. And significantly, Matthew points out that the middle way described by the Buddha is not the “average” of two extremes, but is a radical departure from either extreme and their opposition, with the potential for true freedom.

You can listen to the whole series at the following links, but we listened specifically to the talks numbered 1, 3, and 5.

Some of the pearls of wisdom from Matthew’s talks.

  • Equanimity is a non-compulsion around our preferences. We still have preferences, but we do not have a compulsion to enact them in the world. We no longer have a feeling that the moment can be fixed.
  • Ajahn Sumedho – “Desire is not the cause of suffering. The cause of suffering is grasping of desire.”
  • On the subtlety of delusion: Delusion feels exactly like the truth until it doesn’t. How can we see what we can’t see? Delusion is very subtle – it “launders” our greed and hatred. It serves to justify and dignify the forces of greed and hatred. Launder greed and it looks like hope, and fun and excitement. Launder hatred and it looks like righteousness, clarity and discernment.
  • Pain met with equanimity is a cause for love. The capacity to bring difficulty into attention is profound and is the basis for not spilling our suffering on others. Our self-regulation fails when equanimity is absent.
  • Matthew presents the two extremes which the Buddha rejected:
    • Extreme 1: Everything means everything. There is no rest
    • Extreme 2: Nothing means anything. Love dissolves.
  • In the Buddha’s middle path equanimity purifies our compassion. Our compassion becomes less compulsive, less codependent, less grandiose and less self-righteous. Actions arising from equanimity are more potent than actions arising from clinging. We are less intimidated by the enormity of dukkha when are are confident that the heart can rest in peace, or equanimity.