Sunday, March 15, 2020

Appreciating the Subtle

     Equanimity, peace, & other subtle states are seldom appreciated or discussed these days. When we do notice subtle states, we tend to dismiss them as "boring" or rush to escape them! We overlook or dismiss most of life; instinctively cling to pleasant experiences; and instinctively reject unpleasant experiences. 
     Unless we deeply understand & minimize this conditioned, trance-like reactivity, we will continue to create unnecessary suffering for ourselves & others.

     Equanimity’ can be defined as: "a gentle matter of fact-ness with whatever comes up in experience. In a similar way, a scientist is trained to maintain the detached viewpoint of a neutral observer."
       Shinzen Young. “The Science of Enlightenment. How Meditation Works.” Sounds True, 2016.

     “Being bound neither by delight nor distress is a classical description of the mind-state of equanimity. Bikkhu Bodhi describes this mind-state as a ‘considered mind’ (‘because a prejudiced mind, a mind that has already been made up, cannot consider anything that is contrary to its accepted views’); a mind that has become pliable; become stable; become flexible; reached a state of not fluttering. This is a concentrated mind, without blemish, purified and cleansed with all defiling tendencies gone.
     This is admittedly an accomplishment of a buddha (with a small b) and a tall order for those not trained in the mental discipline. Still, in investigating deeply the workings of our own minds and meditative experiences, we may be able to catch a glimpse of some of the attributes described above. This glimpse, in turn, is a peek into the mind-state that has gone beyond [seeking] delight and [avoiding] distress.” Mu Soeng 
       Mu Soeng, Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia, Andrew Olendzki. “Older and Wiser. Classical Buddhist Teachings on Aging, Sickness and Death.” Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, 2017.

     "... my hope (is) to have ‘traversed the world’s attachments’ (and therefore achieving) a state of equanimity and contentment rooted in wisdom. Contentment is a state of mind and need not rely upon a particular set of external conditions. We are accustomed to thinking that we’ll be content once this, that, or the other thing takes place, and we thereby put a lot of energy into trying to make those conditions manifest. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Even when it does, when we reach a goal (such as retirement) or fulfill certain criteria (such as having a comfortable place to live), it may still turn out that we are not content. Either the conditions change, as they are wont to do, or we find that new desires arise to clamor for our attention once the old ones are fulfilled.
     At any given moment, the quality of one’s experience will be defined by whatever emotional states are arising. Riding the roller coaster of desire, we might be gratified half of the time and distressed the other half. We are being told by the Buddha, however, that we also have a third option – not climbing on board in the first place. Any moment with desire is a moment entangled in suffering. Any time we want things to be different than they are, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. This is because delight and distress are two sides of the same coin, and we cannot have one without the other. It is precisely because he is not consumed with delight that the Buddha can ‘sit alone, without being consumed by regret.’
     Many people will say that it is worth the distress to experience the delight. As we mature, however, we may find ourselves drawn more to the middle range of experience, the state of mind described here by the Buddha in which the fires of desire no longer burn. This is of course the best-known metaphor for awakening: ‘the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion have been extinguished (nirvana).’ Conventional wisdom assumes it is boring and bland in this middle emotional range, but those who have experienced firsthand the equanimous quality of mind that comes from true mindfulness know better. Unencumbered by the emotional highs and lows, the mind is capable of a remarkable clarity and immediacy. Delight and distress do not spice up our experience as much as they confuse and obfuscate it.
     If our contentment depends upon receiving the things that delight us or avoiding what causes distress, it will remain shallow. At the deeper end of the pool, the mind is more calm, more focused, and hence more powerful. Awareness itself is the most astonishing aspect of the human condition. As we learn to orient toward it more often and more skillfully, the contentment described here by the Buddha becomes increasingly accessible. Profound well-being awaits us here and now, in every moment, and can be reached simply by ceasing the attempt to get somewhere else." Andrew Olendzki 
       Mu Soeng, Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia, Andrew Olendzki. “Older and Wiser. Classical Buddhist Teachings on Aging, Sickness and Death.” Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, 2017.

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