Regaining Balance

“Everything is always in transition, and we adapt.  Life is good,” I recently wrote to a loved one.  The past week has had an unusual number of daily-life problems, and I’ve done some serious adapting.  When I get knocked off balance, there seems to be three levels of recovery:  mindfulness, equanimity and serenity.  A very disturbing event can cause so much stress that I’m swept away by emotional reactivity and can get stuck there for some time.  Returning to a clear mind and peaceful heart often comes in stages.

A fellow meditator says he works under the assumption that mistakes will happen.  For him and his co-workers, this takes blame out of dealing with trouble.  They are prepared to face what has gone wrong in terms of its solution, rather than wasting time and energy assigning fault for the problem.  This approach can work in all aspects of our lives if we remember that impermanence is a characteristic of every event and of all material things.  We need to flow with change, responding to what’s true in this moment.  That shifts us into an awareness that isn’t stymied by rampaging thoughts and feelings. 

Once the mind has some clarity, we can still be in a state of physical and mental stress.   The ideal way to hold onto mindfulness and move toward equanimity is to meditate.  Often, though, we’re busy coping with events, and simply can’t turn attention inward for any length of time.  Even if we can, it would be self-defeating if we had an attitude that we have to focus our attention now.  A sense of urgency in practice doesn’t work.  If we’re wound up that tightly, it’s best just to try paying attention to the physical sensations we experience while letting go of thinking whenever we can.  In fact, simply spending some pre-determined period of time without being active can help move us toward the balance of equanimity.  

If she can’t meditate soon after she’s upset, another friend uses the phrase, “Ah, this too.”   It helps her create enough space around the problem to see its real size in relation to the rest of life, and remember that her heart is big enough to hold it all.  Often, we can have this steadying perspective on events, and still feel tension.  In fact, many of us spend most of our lives without really “settling down” into serenity.  Vacations are intended to achieve this, and sometimes they succeed.  Several sessions of meditation are often more successful, though. 

Attitude is a vital ingredient in serenity.  All the mental and emotional steps that help us toward equanimity also set the stage for the heart and mind to settle into peace and clarity.  Accepting that things are as they are, and recognizing that certain unwelcome events are just pieces of a much bigger picture assures us that we’re very able to adapt to change.  If we give ourselves time to make these adjustments, with confidence in the ultimate goodness of our hearts, our practice can provide us with a serenity that will heal and empower us in our continuing adaptation to life.

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One Response to Regaining Balance

  1. Fred Branaman says:

    Thank you.
    Beautifully said.
    Right now, it’s like this…

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