Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Art of Equanimity

"Equanimity -- n. 1. Fairness, impartiality, equity. 2. Tranquility of mind or temper; composure; resignation, acceptance of fate." Source: The New Oxford English Dictionary.

I just spent the last three hours carefully crafting a post on the art of equanimity, only to erase it after accidentally hitting the space bar immediately after selecting all. How is that for an opportunity to practice said art?!?

Instead of trying to recreate the original (and lengthy) post, I will simply say that I have been inspired, primarily by some Buddhist reading I've been doing lately, to start practicing the art of equanimity on a more consistent basis. This involves neither clinging to nor fleeing from situations, things, or people (including myself), but instead just accepting things as they are. Another way to say this is that I now endeavor to see what's real, as opposed to projecting a storyline of my own making onto the things I encounter. It is amazing how differently things look when I can manage to see them before my preconceived notions and other imaginings enter the picture.

One thing that has been particularly interesting for me is to take an honest look at the instances in which equanimity eludes me, which it still regularly does, and try to figure out why. I have concluded that most of my non-equanimous moments are attributable to some sort of fear that usually can be traced back to the fear of death, which I'm thinking may well be the root of all fear. When one fears the fact that one's existence will someday cease, one tends to view all things through the totally biased filter of the all-important me. Or maybe it is the other way around -- maybe people fear death because they are so me-centric to begin with. Either way, when a person is laboring under that mindset, the ability to be equanimous pretty much goes out the window.

I realized today for the first time, when I looked up equanimity in the dictionary, that resignation and acceptance of fate are parts of the definition. At first that threw me a bit, because I always tend to focus on the parts of the definition that deal with tranquility, composure, and impartiality. But today, through all of the rambling I did on my original attempt at a post, I realized how important resignation and acceptance of fate really are to the concept of equanimity as a whole. After all, it would be pretty difficult for someone to achieve tranquility, composure, and impartiality on anything approaching a consistent basis if they had not fully accepted the inevitable and undeniable truth that they are not the center of the universe and that, indeed, their time in the universe is fleeting at best.

Wow -- it all comes together. Maybe this blogging business actually will be a source of greater clarity, after all!


Reya Mellicker said...

Buddhism doesn't always sync up with our American ideals of individualism and the sense that we can do any damn thing we want. It's interesting that the practice has become so popular here.

Adrianne said...

Reya! I'm so delighted to have a commenter and especially delighted that it is you!

(: )

It *is* interesting that a practice involving taking the ego out of things has become so popular in a country that at times can be so ego-centric. I wonder if the gaining popularity of Buddhism and other eastern practices may signal some kind of slow but sure shift of the pendulum?