Equanimity

watching Shinzen Young videos on the iPad = ub...

Image by ~C4Chaos via Flickr

Just completed a fabulous mini-home-retreat. Usually I design and create these for myself, but I’ve found a meditation teacher who has honed the content and delivery to a “T”…. or maybe “M” for mindfulness. Shinzen Young‘s basic mindfulness home retreats feature his program of methods for mindfulness and are awe inspiringly powerful.

One of my “aha” moments during the four hour combination of didactic instruction, interaction, and sitting meditation made communal by the use of the internet (I use Skype to connect, quite happily) was Shinzen answering a question after the first technique was practiced. “Equanimity” is one of those words you’ll hear as often as “cool” in yoga and meditation circles, so hearing Shinzen apply his scalpel like mind and bring the discussion back to the definition is always refreshing. One of the many things I appreciate in his teaching is that he is truly a philosopher in the Socratic sense: philosophy is a practice as well as a system of interrelated definitions supporting clear thinking.

He reminded us that equanimity is the skill of allowing images, thoughts, feelings or sensations to arise “without push or pull,” without moving toward or away from them, without craving or aversion. Equanimity is what we exhibit when we allow these experiences to arise and pass away without our interference – perhaps without even our explicit notice.

And he asserted, if I understood properly, that this is our psyche’s healing mechanism. The intuitive appeal of this theory has me looking into his deeper philosophy, but for now all I can say is that it makes sense to me and resonates with my experience. I had an image of the desert plateaus and canyon floors I spend so much time traversing. After a good rain, an infrequent phenomenon to be sure, bits of the past surface with as much ease as spring water seeping through cracks, to be worn away and converted to light and heat by the wind and the desert sun. What a blissful new way for me to relate to sitting.

How do you define equanimity?

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Morning Practice

well stone after spectacular late summer monsoon….

prepared ground….

….. feet on mat….

hummingbirds…

stone cairns….

grandfather stones…

mother stone….

Hub & Spoke Meditation Link

Upaya Zen Center

This powerful meditation demonstrates and cultivates your second order reflexive awareness, or awareness of awareness. Dr. Dan Siegel leads us to pay attention to the “rim” of awareness by following spokes of sensation, thinking, feeling and connection to others, each in turn. Finally, you “turn the spokes back on the hub” and rest in your meditative center, the hub of consciousness.

The link above will take you to a recording of a talk containing a guided meditation (about 12-13 minutes in) given by Dr. Siegel at Upaya Zen Center just last month. You can listen to the whole series of 9 talks based on his new book MindSight, or simply enjoy this simple guided meditation. Here are some quotes from Dr. Siegel about the power of attention.

“The close paying of attention turns on parts of the brain that make synaptic change happen.”

“Mind is the embodied, relational regulatory process of the flow of energy and information.”

“We know from research that the way you develop your awareness changes the health of your body… changes your relational health… and cultivates mental health.”

“How we focus our attention shapes the structure of the brain.”

“Well-being emerges when we create connections our lives.”