Cultivating Equanimity - The Last Brahmavihara

I slept in and arose this morning to a sunny day, and sat out on the deck reading the Sunday paper to a joyous choir of birds singing their little hearts out! It was warm outside, and I think they were enjoying the autumn reprieve as much as I was!

This week, I arrive at the last and most magnificent of the brahmaviharas - upeksha. My favorite translation of this word is equanimity.

Almost a week ago, I received darshan from Mother Meera and came away with the gift of equanimity. I know this, because in the past week I have experienced a stillness of soul, mind, and body, that had eluded me for a long time. And, there was also a discernible shift in my meditations.

Some of the translations of upkesha I came across were: "disregard towards the wicked," and "overlooking those who have hurt you."

When I studied with John Friend in March, he spoke a lot about this brahmavihara, and how this is a very difficult spiritual practice. He bid us to act in "upekshanam" as practitioners of Anusara Yoga. He instructed us to be spacious and radiant. And told us to be consciously illuminative - for we were all walking a path towards embodying a shining energy.

He also urged us, to try to re-frame the relationship we have with those we are in conflict with, and to train our minds to always look for the auspicious. When we practice all of the brahmaviharas: lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy - and equanimity - we enter our hearts more fully and we ride the river of grace.

Frank Jude Boccio, in his article, "Love in Full Bloom," written for Yoga Journal, says this about this last brahmavihara:

"Finally, the word upeksha, translated by those in the classical yoga tradition as 'disregard' or 'indifference,' is understood in the Buddhist yoga tradition as meaning 'equanimity,' or the even-mindedness of nonattachment. True equanimity is neither indifference nor detachment. It is the ability to feel connection fully, without clinging or possessiveness. Upeksha is traditionally the last of the brahmaviharas we work with, and it is the one that allows us to deepen and extend the other three immeasurably..."

Last night, I saw the movie Invictus, based on the story of Nelson Mandela and how he encouraged and inspired the South African rugby team to win the World Cup, something they were not favored or expected to do. This team was also largely despised by the black South Africans because it symbolized Apartheid.

Yet, Mandela managed to unite his whole nation and constantly inspired those around him to forgive and let go of the past - and to look beyond divisions and separations to see only union. He managed to do this himself, despite spending 30 years in a tiny cell and emerging with no animosity or hatred towards those who imprisoned him there. This was not a man who merely disregarded his perpetrators - this was a man who chose to abide in equanimity - and who transformed a people like Gandhi did in his day.

Yes, true equanimity is connecting fully to all people and all things - despite everything and anything. As I meditated more deeply this week, I gave thanks for the ability to embody this quality more noticeably, and for all the wonders it is slowly unwrapping for me, for it is truly the greatest spiritual gift.

And I end with this poem, that sustained Mandela in his prison for decades, written by William Ernest Henley...


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


Darla said…
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights. New clarity to non-attachment. And I missed Boccio's article so will go back and look it up. ~ Bright Blessings~

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