Buddhist equanimity is that even-mindedness, that emotional equilibrium which arises from a wise tuning to the true nature of reality. When we understand that all things are constantly changing, in harmony with the principle of cause and effect, there is often no need to react personally, no need for elation or dejection, for taking or rejecting. We have seen how reacting merely spins us into new actions and results, and thus prolongs the cycle of further reacting.
Ulimately, however, perfect equanimity comes from wisdom, from clearly seeing the true nature of things. When one understands that all things are impermanent, always changing, ephemeral, what is there to get excited about? Everything is just changing phenomena, just flowing processes. Ultimately equanimity is that profound, dispassionate stillness where everything manifests but is not reacted to, just silently received.
From chapter Equanimity in book Contemplations on the Seven Factors of Awakening by Ajahn Thiradhammo
(available for free download at http://www.forestsanghapublications.org)
Very few of us have reached the point of complete understanding about the changing nature of all phenomena. However, Ajahn Thiradhammo points in a direction that’s worth considering. When we find ourselves reacting and over-reacting, and unable to stop reacting – it’s time to try a different approach. Can we take a step back and consider that whatever it is we’re reacting to is not going to stay as it is for long? Something else will happen, it’s guaranteed.
When we find ourselves caught up in an extreme emotional reaction, underneath our thoughts, worries, excitement, anger, anxieties or whatever (and their associated physical responses), there is an assumption that the cause is fixed, solid, immovable, and that we need to do something about it right now! If we can take three deep breaths (sometimes one is not enough) and recall that whatever we’re responding to is ephemeral, and that our reaction is also ephemeral and will fade if we stop feeding it, then release is possible.
Often we react before we have a complete picture of what’s going on, and in that case the best response is non-interfering observation or investigation.
Whether we’re temporarily lost in excitement or distress, there is a remedy the Buddha recommended. We can remember that nothing stays the same for long and that all phenomena are subject to the laws of cause and effect. We may then be able to slow down, investigate, and keep still, at least temporarily. In the stillness, wisdom can grow.