4/21 Ponder This

Mindfulness and spirituality are awesome, but they’re even more beneficial when you research their roots. 

Our current concept of “mindfulness” is based largely on equanimity, which is actually a guiding principle of Buddhism.

Bhikkhu Bodhi defines equanimity as “a balanced reaction to joy and misery, which protects one from emotional agitation.” 

As I continue exploring meditation and searching for #innerpeace ✨🧘🏻‍♀️🌿 I’ve found that a lot of the core mindsets I strive for –– kindness, compassion, happiness, and mindfulness  –– are rooted in the Buddha’s brahmavihārās. 

While this is far from the first concept Westerners have oversimplified for palatability, equanimity (or upekkhā) is one that can help us all grow if we try. 

(This is where I remind you that I am an expert in nearly nothing and I am especially no expert in Buddhism.)

The brahmavihārās, also called the four immeasurables, are mental states which guide us to accept things (situations, people, animals, emotions, life, basically anything you can think of) as they are and pursue an existence free of ill-will. 

The four immeasurables are:

  • Mettā – loving kindness or goodwill

Loving-kindness is likened to the sentiment felt by a mother toward a newborn infant (May she be well! May he thrive!)

Desbordes et al.
  • Karuṇā – compassion

Compassion is the feeling extended to a sick child (May she be free from pain and suffering!)

Desbordes et al.
  • Muditā – sympathetic joy

Sympathetic joy is how a mother feels toward a grown boy who leaves home to marry (Though it may be painful for me, I feel joy for him!)

Desbordes et al.
  • Upekkhā – equanimity

Equanimity is how a mother might feel on hearing about her grown child’s business dealings — she is attentive and caring about his welfare (not disengaged or indifferent), yet has no emotional entanglement to the content of the news she hears.

Desbordes et al.

Equanimity helps us by centering our minds. It allows us to experience the world as it is without overindulging in positive experiences (like those which lead to addiction) or negative experiences.

“Suppose they were to strike a man with a dart, but they would not strike him immediately afterward with a second dart, so that man would feel a feeling caused by one dart only. So, too, when the instructed noble disciple experiences a painful feeling, he feels one feeling –– a bodily one, and not a mental one.”

Bodhi pg 31

I’m no “instructed noble disciple,” but I’ve definitely allowed pain in one part of my life to affect the otherwise good or neutral parts. Maybe (maybe) I can try to be more mindful equanimous –– stop amplifying bad feelings and start letting things go instead.

No matter your religion or beliefs, I think these are pretty decent mindsets to pursue. And learning more about why and how monks achieve these mental states has convinced me to do the same (or at least try).

Sources to check out:

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