A true test of equanimity is when you partner goes away for a week and then returns and there is no change. No change to how you feel, no change to what happens, no change to what you do. The entry and exit is seamless. It is neither seen as good luck or bad luck, just another thing that has happened. You are not making up rules for the entry or be-groaning the time on your own. You are not getting upset when things aren’t done your way and you are happy when you have to adapt to sleeping on only a 1/4 of the bed. In yoga equanimity is called Upeksha, the state of mind where you are not grasping or pushing away. It is not that we are indifferent to our state of affairs, just that our deep state of balance is not disturbed as they say in the movie, stirred not shaken.
A farmer’s most valuable asset is the one horse he owns. One day it runs away. All the townspeople commiserate with him, “Oh, what terrible luck! You’ve fallen into poverty now, with no way to pull the plow or move your goods!” The farmer merely responds, “I don’t know if it’s unfortunate or not; all I know is that my horse is gone.”
A few days later, the horse returns, and following it are six more horses, both stallions and mares. The townspeople say “Oh! You’ve struck it rich! Now you have seven horses to your name!” Again, the farmer says, “I don’t know if I’m fortunate or not; all that I can say is that I now have seven horses in my stable.”
A few days later, while the farmer’s son is trying to break in one of the wild stallions, he’s thrown from the horse and breaks his leg and shoulder. All the townspeople bemoan his fate: “Oh, how terrible! Your son has been so badly injured, he’ll not be able to help you with the harvest. What a misfortune!” The farmer responds, “I don’t know if it’s a misfortune or not; what I know is that my son has been injured.”
Less than a week later, the army sweeps through town, conscripting all the young men to fight in a war…all except for the farmer’s son, who is unable to fight because of his injury.
This story illustrates that there is not much point being upset by the turn of events or the daily comings and going of our life. This is our life. This is what happens. We accept everything as it comes and as it goes. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have opinions or not like something, it is just that we step out of our programmed emotional reactivity to these daily upheavals.
Jon Kabbat-Zin says‘ You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf‘
Practice for today: When your waves roll in resist the urge to be swept away by your habitual emotional patterns or reactivity. See the event as the farmer did, not good luck or bad, not for or against you, just as an event. A state of even minded openness allows for a balanced and clear response to life. Learn to surf!