These photos were all taken at the beach this morning as I thought about the Equinox. In Australia we are moving from winter into summer, so for us this Equinox is the still point between cool and warm, dark and light, subdued and bright. A balancing place, neither one thing nor the other, and how sublime it feels!
Can we find that balancing point in our lives, find the equanimity that we seek in our relations with others? Tipping neither towards the warm pole of anger, nor the cold pole of indifference, neither towards the heat of desire nor the chill of dislike, neither towards the brightness of interest nor the dullness of oversight. Can we learn to rest in a centre place of loving kindness, contentment and joy?
The difficulty is in stepping back from judgment, from voice that says “this is good, that is bad, this is right, that is wrong”, and so on. Can we learn to move into the part of ourselves that is the Witness, observing without judgment all that happens, all that come and goes, accepting peacefully “this is, that is” and even “I am this, I am that.” Can we learn to remain calm and untroubled?
The ancient yoga teacher Patanjali lists four brahmavihara, or attitudes that will help us eliminate suffering from our lives. These are
1. Friendliness towards the joyful
2. Compassion for those who are suffering
3. Celebrating the good in others
4. Remaining impartial to the faults and imperfections of others
(Yoga Sutra 1.33)
Is is only in relation to others that we can test our spiritual development. In her book “Bringing Yoga to Life” Donna Farhi says “Because our relationships tend to generate the most perturbation the practice of the four brahmavihara is designed to undermine the causative factors of mental unrest and make it easier to bring the mind into a tranquil state.”
The first three attitudes don’t seem so difficult, but the fourth is definitely challenging! It is not too hard to feel friendly towards cheerful joyful people, unless you are confirmed grump … and most of us feel compassion towards those who are suffering, although it might depend on what they are suffering from. Perhaps we are less compassionate if we think their suffering is their fault? Celebrating the good in others is a joyful practice, but jealousy and competition might dull the edge of our pleasure in another’s goodness.
How do we learn to remain impartial to the faults and imperfections of others? One woman I knew just blessed everyone, as she spoke their name in a conversation she said “Bless her!” Now that would help us to gloss over the faults!
Donna Farhi says “The fourth brahmavihara looks at how we inflict suffering on ourselves and how we manufacture our own torment by failing to detach ourselves from things that ultimately we cannot change in another.” When we perceive that another has hurt us we can be trapped by endless reruns of the event, by obsessive thinking about outcomes, revenge, or just suffer general sadness that things were not the way we imagined. However with time and effort we can learn to let go, to accept that the only thing we can change is our own attitude, and thus return to equanimity.
Wishing you a happy equinox, and joyful equanimity!