Equanimity versus the vicissitudes of experience
The Bhagavad Gita, the Buddha and most sages tell us of the importance of attaining an equipoise mind. Very often young people complain, “But we want to feel sad, we want to feel excited and glad, we want to, we want to… why do you preach equanimity? It will take away the joy of experience.”
I have been mulling over the answer to this question. The following are a few of my insights, which may help you understand the apparent dilemma.
At no time does equanimity imply insensitivity.
We are all sentient beings and as such cannot escape sensations unless anesthetized.
There are four aspects to any sensation first: the stimulus, such as a sound; second: the perception; third: the interpretation of the stimulus; and fourth: the reaction to it. The reaction is most often instant and uncontrollable.
Reaction to the experience is of two kinds – craving or aversion. If it is craving one want to repeat again and again, if it is aversion one wants to avoid it again and again.
Repetitive behavior results in a cyclic, inexorable habit pattern, which enslaves our mind.
A mind that is mesmerized and enslaved by habit patterns, sometimes even addicted, can only lead to misery.
What does an equipoise mind mean?
A mind that is discerning and is not subject to a compulsive instant reaction. Instead it has time to respond appropriately and adequately.
A mind that can appreciate the fleeting nature of all experience and hence des not swing like a pendulum from mania to misery.
A sensitive mind that feels the injury of another and has the patience to soothe.
A mind that has clarity and direction, for reactions do not leave it turbulent. It is tranquil and serene.
The reflection of experience happens in all its clarity only in the calm lake of an equipoise mind.
The experience can unfold in all its purity for preconceived craving and aversion does not tarnish its perception.
The still state of Being is ever in the moment and the experience happens in the now, so synchronicity is no longer rare; it is a given.*
The desire to repeat the pleasant and avoid the painful is seen for what it is now and no longer holds one hostage.
Need more be said? Oh, what freedom can such a mind no experience!
*Synchronicity is the occurrence of events which are in sync, when the opposites are not at play and all is still. To elaborate, life is movement whether gross or subtle. Even thought has form and movement, emotions move all the time, all of this is perceived. In fact, we can catch ourselves often remarking, “The thought is at the back of my mind,” implying it has to make it to the front to be perceived. All movement happens against a still background (just being not becoming) or else it can never be appreciated. If the mind is still there is no movement, if there is no movement there is no space, no time! There is no past to compare with, there is no future to fear!
The author Dr Shirin Venkatramani is a gynaecologist by training, but a seeker at heart. Her medical career spanning 4 decades has been filled with numerous awards, and has been professionally satisfying. In her role as a doctor she has provided medical care, emotional support and practical guidance to thousands of patients. Her passion has been to reduce maternal mortality in India, towards which she spearheaded the ‘SuPraBha Ganga Yatra’, a 108-day awareness walkathon along the river Ganga.
However she has consciously balanced her worldly career with an inward quest, fuelled by her close association with the great sages of our times, and her love for reading of spiritual and philosophical texts. Throughout her life she has strived to reconcile spiritual concepts with the mundane experience, and her book Jeevansar Kathamrut: Nectarean stories to glean the essence of life (Notion Press, Chennai, 2017) is one such attempt. This article is a chapter from the book.
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