Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a great tree in the midst of them all. From Buddha's Little Instruction Book
This quote starts the reading for June 8th in Mark Nepo's "Book of Awakening". Though he doesn't use the word, The Buddha speaks here to the quality of equanimity. The ability to be happy and rest like a great tree in the midst of everything. This past weekend we sat with Lama Pema Clark and Lama Yeshe Park from Kagyu Sukha Choling Buddhist Center in Ashland, OR. Lama Pema spoke about equanimity, attempting to define it and help us to grasp exactly what this state involves. She spoke of three important pieces in the practice of equanimity. First, we acknowledge what is and just allow the situation to be exactly as it is. It simply is. To dispute this in our minds is to suffer. Secondly we ask, "what will happen next?" This simple question places us in a space of open curiosity which is more peaceful. And thirdly, we investigate am I called to action and if so what might that action be. If action need be taken, we move in that direction. As many teachers will tell us, finding equanimity is a work in progress. Easier some days than others.
We find all of this teaching and practice helpful in our own lives. Lama Pema spoke so clearly to what we aspire to live and to share with every client we see in counseling. Sometimes things occur in our life that are very difficult and that is when equanimity can be difficult to find.
As we listened to Lama Pema's teaching, our minds harkened back to a time not so long ago when our equanimity was deeply tested and our practice was daily. Our 20 year old daughter had just been diagnosed with a rare ovarian cancer. A shocking occurrence in all of our lives. Though we often felt bowled over by the event itself and subsequent medical intervention, we realized, listening to Lama Pema speak, how much we had used those three steps to equanimity in our journey. Though difficult, we had to face what simply was. Our daughter had cancer. We could suffer a lot or feel victimized by this but that was quite simply the fact of it. The more we were able to just be with what was, the more equanimity we felt.
When we could allow everything to be as it was, we were able to open to the "what will happen next?" There were many decisions to be made ... serious decisions... life changing decisions. The more we were able to make those decision from a place of open curiosity and not from fear, the calmer we felt. We were able to research and help her research to find the best course of action for her.
At this point, action was needed. Our daughter, after much research and our support decided on a course of chemotherapy. Her "knowing" that she should do chemo arose in her from a solid place that she could not have experienced had she not allowed "this is what is" and explored "what will happen next?" We could not have supported her so wholeheartedly in any decision she made had we not practiced those steps too.
We never know what life will bring us next but we do know we can bring more peace to our minds through the practice of equanimity. To be happy and rest like a tree in the midst of whatever unfolds.
And as an addendum. Our daughter is doing very well. She is healthy and thriving and more than a year past her last treatment. She has just finished her junior year at Naropa University. For all this, we are very grateful!
To find out more about Lama Pema and Lama Yeshe's work visit kscashland
For information about Mark Nepo, click here