Week 38 - Factors of Awakening: Equanimity

The last of the seven factors of awakening is Equanimity, and this week Joseph introduces it, saying, “One could say that the whole path rests on the maturing of this powerful enlightenment factor.” Joseph describes the ways equanimity manifests in our lives:

1.   Equanimity as a quality of balance: He discusses the “eight worldly vicissitudes”, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute, and pleasure and pain, and the role of equanimity in bringing peace and balance to our lives relative to these vicissitudes.

2.    Equanimity as a divine abode: Equanimity is the fourth of the brahmaviharas and its ability to hold all equally gives the other brahmaviharas their boundless capacity.

3.   The wisdom aspect of equanimity: This is the equanimity of “nonpreferential awareness”.

4.   Equanimity as a Parami: Of the ten Paramis, patience and equanimity are considered the mainstay for all the others.

Joseph goes on to teach us how we can develop and strengthen equanimity and emphasizes these four ways:

1.   Forego attachment

2.   Associate with wise, equanimous people

3.   Practice its brahmavihara aspect

4.   Practice wise attention and continuous mindfulness

QUESTIONS:  Can you identify the distinctions between the various types of equanimity? - Specifically:

1.  What is your personal experience with equanimity as a quality of balance? – Particularly focusing on the relationship between equanimity and the “eight worldly vicissitudes”, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute, and pleasure and pain.

2. How have you personally experienced equanimity as a divine abode? – A divine abode or brahmaviharas being loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity.
3.  It is said, “The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.” Reflecting on your practice, can you describe a personal experience of non-preferential awareness and its relationship to equanimity?   
4.  Equanimity is listed as one of the 10 Paramis – 10 essential qualities of perfection to be cultivated by a bodhisattva over a lifetime.  Speaking from your practice, how does equanimity serve as a quality to be perfected?

PRACTICES:  To develop and strengthen equanimity try the following:

1. Forego attachment – While sitting, identify and reflect on a situation in which you feel emotionally attached to the outcome, some pending decision or activity in which you have a very strong desire for a particular outcome.  Now pause and focus on applying equanimity to this situation.  What do you notice?

2. Associate with wise, equanimous people – While sitting reflect on your immediate social circles.  What is the quality of the energy of the people you surround yourself with?  Are you content with the results? Are there any adjustments needed?

3. Practice its brahmavihara aspect – While sitting, repeat the phrase “All beings are the heirs of their own karma.  Their happiness or unhappiness depends on their actions, not upon my wishes.” Apply this phrase first to someone you feel neutral about and then successively in regard to a benefactor, a friend, a difficult person, and then to all beings.  What do you notice about this approach vs. the well wishing approach in the other brahmaviharas?

4. Practice wise attention and continuous mindfulness – as you experiment with bringing a quality of equanimity off the cushion and into your daily life practice, what do you notice about the qualities that accompany equanimity?   How are these qualities distinct from the feelings associated with excitement, simple joy, or pleasant feelings?