The Five Mindfulness Trainings and Their Relevance to Our Society

The Five Mindfulness Trainings and Their Relevance to Our Society

Discussion date: Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday we will discuss equanimity. The following is adapted from a talk by Gil Fronsdal, May 29th, 2004.

Equanimity is one of the most sublime emotions of Buddhist practice. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as "abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will." Equanimity is the ability to avoid getting “hooked” by positive or negative feelings.

Equanimity is a protection from the "eight worldly winds":

  • Praise and blame,
  • Success and failure,
  • Pleasure and pain,
  • Fame and disrepute.

Becoming attached to or excessively elated with success, praise, fame or pleasure can be a set-up for suffering when the winds of life change direction. For example, success can be wonderful, but if it leads to arrogance, we have more to lose in future challenges.… Identifying with failure, we may feel incompetent or inadequate [which can lead to more failure]. Reacting to pain, we may become discouraged. If we understand or feel that our sense of inner well-being is independent of the eight winds, we are more likely to remain on an even keel in their midst.

One approach to developing equanimity is to cultivate the qualities of mind that support it. Seven mental qualities support the development of equanimity. They are:

  • Integrity
  • Assurance that comes from faith
  • A well developed mind
  • A sense of well being
  • Wisdom
  • Insight
  • Freedom

Integrity: When we live and act with integrity, we feel confident about our actions and words, which results in the equanimity of blamelessness.…

Assurance that comes from faith: While any kind of faith can provide equanimity, faith grounded in wisdom is especially powerful. The Pali word for faith, saddha, is also translated as conviction or confidence. If we have confidence in our ability to engage in a spiritual practice, then we are more likely to meet its challenges with equanimity.

A well-developed mind: This is done through practices that cultivate calm, concentration and mindfulness. When the mind is calm, we are less likely to be blown about by the worldly winds.

A sense of well-being: We do not need to leave well-being to chance…. We often overlook the well-being that is easily available in daily life. Even taking time to enjoy one’s tea or the sunset can be a training in well-being.

Wisdom: Wisdom can teach us to separate people’s actions from who they are. We can agree or disagree with their actions, but remain balanced in our relationship with them…One of the most powerful ways to use wisdom to facilitate equanimity is to be mindful of when equanimity is absent. Honest awareness of what makes us imbalanced helps us to learn how to find balance.

Insight: Insight is a deep seeing into the nature of things as they are. One of the primary insights is the nature of impermanence. In the deepest forms of this insight, we see that things change so quickly that we can’t hold onto anything, and eventually the mind lets go of clinging. Letting go brings equanimity; the greater the letting go, the deeper the equanimity.

Freedom: Freedom comes as we begin to let go of our reactive tendencies. We can get a taste of what this means by noticing areas in which we were once reactive but are no longer. For example, some issues that upset us when we were teenagers prompt no reaction at all now that we are adults. In Buddhist practice, we work to expand the range of life experiences in which we are free.

As mindfulness becomes stronger, so does our equanimity. We see with greater independence and freedom. And, at the same time, equanimity becomes an inner strength that keeps us balanced in middle of all that is.

David Martin-McCormick

 

Discussion Date: Thu, Oct 16, 2008


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