Equanimity Is Not Boring

Elizabeth Reninger Written by Elizabeth Reninger
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Taoism | Meditation | Compassion

One common misconception about the practice of Mindfulness - about nurturing equanimity by cultivating the “witness” capacity of our consciousness - is that it results in a blase, indifferent and rather boring relationship to life. The belief that the kind of “detachment” we cultivate in Mindfulness practice decreases our enjoyment of life is, however, simply not true. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case: equanimity allows us to experience our lives with an intimacy and intensity far beyond what we might have imagined to be possible! So ... How does this work?

Mindfullness And Joy

The experience of our lives consists largely of perceptions, sensations and cognitions. With the help of our sense organs, we see, hear, feel, taste and smell the external world. The world inside of us - what we call the “self” - is composed primarily of emotions (e.g. anger, sadness, fear, worry, joy), internal talk (aka “mental chatter”) and internal images (the “movies” playing on the screen of our mind). Each of these components of our world and our self has a natural lifespan: it arises within our awareness, and then it subsides. Each thought, each perception, each sensation or emotion is like a wave, which gathers momentum, crests, and then dissolves back into the ocean.

When we allow the various components of our life-experience to flow naturally in this way - without interference, without resistance - our ability to perceive them clearly, and feel them deeply is greatly enhanced.

When, on the other hand, we’re “triggered” by what is arising in our experience -- and spin out into emotional reactivity -- the physical/emotional constriction that goes along with this tends to distort our perception, and decrease our sensitivity to what’s actually happening. In other words, while we might appear, to an outside observer, to be “totally engaged with” the situation, in actuality we’ve numbed out, and are much less intimately connected to the truth of Life, in that moment. Attitudes of judgment and intolerance - rooted in rigid ideas of “who I am” and “who the other person is” - separate us from the joyful, flowing, ever-fresh intimacy of Life.

If we can maintain a childlike openness and curiosity, that welcomes whatever experiences life has to offer (which Mindfulness practice supports!) we find arising within us a kind of happiness and fulfillment that - strangely enough - doesn’t depend upon the specific content of our life-experience. Of course we’ll still prefer pleasant over unpleasant sensations, we’ll still prefer hanging out with friendly rather than unfriendly people. But there will be a subtle, intense and continuous satisfaction that pervades all experience, equally. And this is wonderful!

Updated: Jan 11, 2011

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