What is the best response to our share of the joy and pain of the world? Are we tossed by the winds, inclining to exuberance when things go our way or to depression when they don’t? What evokes appropriate and balanced response?
Upekkha (equanimity) is the fourth Brahmavihara (best home, divine abode), sometimes translated as “looking over” or having a wide view that imbues the heart with clarity and wisdom. The training of equanimity cultivates a balanced responsive heart in the midst of the vicissitudes of life, described by the Buddha as the “Eight Worldly Winds”: gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and disrepute.
Like the mountain that remains unwavering while subject to sun, wind, rain and snow, the heart of equanimity experiences changes in the realms of form, feeling, and mind, yet remains unshakably stable. How? Through opening to circumstances and returning to this moment, however painful, pleasant or neutral, to let it into our heart and greet it with wisdom.
Equanimity is not weak, insensitive, indifferent or apathetic. It builds inner strength of a connected, soft, fluid heart from which response to conditions is appropriate—the force that allows people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King to powerfully affect the world.
Don’t wait for the worldly winds to knock you over. Cultivate equanimity now. With consistent practice in meditation, gently and repeatedly letting go of reactivity and identification with ideas, perceptions, feelings, fears and even body, all temporary and ephemeral, the heart trains itself in equanimity. Appropriate response naturally arises.