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Maintaining Equanimity During Dangerous Times

This page last updated June 16, 2014

"The last limb of enlightenment is equanimity. Equanimity means evenness of mind. When things are going well, there is no wild elation. When things are not going well, there is no depression. Equanimity is an impartiality towards all phenomena, treating all phenomena equally." ~ From "Factors of Enlightenment," the 26th Evening Chapter in The Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein. For more of this quote, scroll down to the next box.

First, a few comments  (September 6, 2009 update)

From an anonymous contributor to Shambhala Sun, the September 2009 issue:

"The teachings of both the twelve steps and the Buddhist path have distilled for me into one idea: equanimity, accepting what is as what is. But that doesn't mean I just roll over. Equanimity is not passivity. On the contrary, it creates a firm foundation for me to take action. For when I accept what is, I am not clinging to what used to be or wishing what might be, and I can step into doing what I can for myself and others, which helps bring me peace of mind, the antitode to despair."

From a sweet little book called Kung Fu Meditations & Chinese Proverbial Wisdom with selections adapted by Ellen Kei Hua and published as a Bantam Book, copyright 1974 by Farout Press:

"Of fame or life which do you hold more dear? Of life or wealth to which would you adhere? Keep life and lose the other things; keep them and lose your life -- which brings sorrow and pain more near?

"Thus we may see who clings to fame rejects what is more great. Who loves large stores gives up the richer state.

"Who is content need fear no shame. Who knows to stop incurs no blame. From danger free long live shall he."

Each of us is a teacher, and this one benefits from a treasure-house of wisdom  (May 29, 2009 update)

One contemporary venerable teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche -- in direct lineage through his father Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche -- offers advice since "the fear so many of us are feeling these days can stress us into freezing our world and getting caught up in dualism...we can get past that by practicing mindfulness and gentleness." Excellent help with maintaining equanimity, "It's Not Us and Them" from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche appears on p. 17 of the July, 2009 issue of Shambhala Sun. If the magazine is unavailable to you locally at your library or through retail sources, contact shambhalasun.com. Here's an excerpt from his article:

"At this particular time, we are dealing with a high level of fear. We have mistaken material freedom for freedom itself, and now the natural laws of the universe are catching up to us. The law of interdependence is showing us that really nothing is free, somebody is always paying for it. Although there are many intricacies in how we have arrived at this situation, in essence the cause is not complicated. It is the result of the habitual pattern known as ego.

"The point of the dharma is egolessness, which is more than just an isolated realization on a meditation cushion. Especially during the current financial instability, there needs to be a level of egolessness. That is something that we can bring into our daily life. We are living in a world that is already too crowded and small for a lot of big egos, yet in stressful times like these, we tend to isolate ourselves and refortify the ego. Fortunately, we have the tools to turn this pattern around."


"The example given of equanimity is that of the sun which shines upon the earth. The sun does not choose to shine upon some things and not upon others. It shines upon everything equally. The factor of equanimity is acceptance and receptivity toward all objects. One kind of reflection which cultivates this factor of equanimity, especially in dealings with others, is remembering that all beings are the heirs, the inheritors, of their own past karma. ... Equanimity is not indifference, but rather a strong balance of mind. In meditation, when the mind starts to be aware on a microscopic level of the instantaneously changing process, it is this factor of equanimity which keeps everything in balance, in perfect poise." Conclusion of quotation from "Factors of Enlightenment," the 26th Evening Chapter in The Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein.

Personal aspiration toward balance

Original Blooming Rose Press article:

In gathering resources to share on this subject, I found myself involved in a long, eye-opening process. Before and especially since 9/11, help has blossomed wherever we turn – particularly for spiritual practitioners. Several times I've asked myself, “Why are you taking on this particular plight to address when great teachers and masters draw upon enduring wisdom to assist people through these difficult times?” Repeatedly I've answered myself: “You, too, draw upon enduring wisdom. We all do. Each of us needs reminders to reconnect with truths we've always known, yet which possibly have become obscured in the world of confusion; moreover, you are sister to these teachers and to these viewers; and most of all, your spirit cries out just as does the spirit of All. You share the same feelings. And you care.”

Having said this, I wish I could present a koan or magical mantra capable of bringing each of us to our silent center of strength amidst chaos and war – a spare, streamlined formula. What follows is anything but that, yet regardless, I hope each of us can view the present complex global circumstances and energies with greater scope than our individual life codes afford us. I hope this essay assists us to stand with our feet on Earth while our heads are in Heaven, bringing us into union with universal perspective.

Seeing the plights of others

This can be looked at from diverse positions arrayed around the question of maintaining equanimity: from that of those who lost loved ones in the WTC, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania tragedies, and who continue to cope with feelings of anger, loss, despair; those who take a stand for peace and witness its opposite playing out; those whose dearest ones have been called forth to carry out such a dangerous mission as that pursued in the Middle East; vulnerable ones bombarded by widespread negativity throughout the media and extended further through countless venues; spiritual practitioners drawing from every resource available to transmute destructive emotions; and certainly those most in need of methods to remain equanimous, warriors who for whatever reason have been called to fight “the enemy.” These warriors may be choiceless in this, caught by time and circumstance in what some view as the greatest service they can render, while others abhor the methods of violence they are required to use.

Most of us can only begin to conceive of human evil on a scale such as that faced during two world wars. That individuals still live on through their writings who have come out of those wars, who have been in the crucible of violence and who have become living voices for the inherent meaning in life, infuses us with the essence of underlying knowing within us all – knowing that is indestructible, independent of physical circumstances. We receive their gifts painfully acquired in the abyss of tyranny through their works; for example, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning; Czeslaw Milosz’s The Captive Mind; and also Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy. [Thanks to Robin Kornman, Ph.D., Library of Congress fellow in international studies, featured in Shambhala Sun, January 2002.]

False duality dissolves into interconnectedness

A primary orientation to establish in dispelling fear and hatred is that of recognizing the false duality of “us” and “them.” Here we are, at the hub of the wheel of life. What now plays out on earth offers to us the global equivalent of the Zen master’s rap on the shoulder. To fall into fragmented thinking about calling some evil and exempting others from evilhood, and using this to justify violence as a solution, requires us to turn our backs on the interconnectedness of all beings.

As Robert Thurman says, “When you understand interconnectedness, it makes you more afraid of hating than of dying.” Thurman’s advice to help us deal with divisive feelings is to remember our interrelationship with each other. Yes, even with Hussein and with Bush. Thurman’s urging toward speaking out from a position of love and joy – and thereby tapping into boundless energy from the universe as a result, rather than burning out like a spent fuse – dovetails with another writer in Tricycle’s Spring 2003 feature on practice, Christopher Titmuss, who suggests, “The peace movement in general is caught in the dualism of resistance and being against. Though I'm certainly against the policies coming out of Washington and London, as Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ We're all well informed, but we need to use more imagination and find better ways to resolve conflict. We've got to realize what inter-connectedness is all about and learn to live together, rather than exist as some kind of dysfunctional family.” [Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Spring 2003, “A Step Toward Peace,” Christopher Titmuss and “Cool Heroism,” Robert Thurman.] *

In the same issue of Tricycle, Sensei Enkyo O’Hara reminds us in her article, “Practice First,” that calling perpetrators of violence “monsters” or using violence as a human separator – a justification for responding with violence – intensifies the dualistic split and continues the cycle of violence. In her language, they are tragic, damaged people. Not monsters. Sensei O’Hara continues to address the amazing opportunities for alternative solutions that presented themselves during the window of 9/11 and opening again at present. Her temple, by the way, is one of the closest to Ground Zero.

Who is responsible?

From a different perspective that maintains our connection with the whole, Rodney Collins’ ambitious work The Theory of Celestial Influence, based upon Ouspensky’s ideological system, is convincing in its message that universal purpose, from the microcosm to the macrocosm, is attainment of higher consciousness. In this book first published in 1954, Collins offers the paradox that all people are responsible for war, and that no one is responsible. After establishing a relationship of fear and rage impulses with the effect of Mars upon the adrenal glands and the common human tendency to quarrel over one thing or another, Collins suggests:

“There is in fact only one way out of this impasse. This comes about only with a complete revision of a man’s whole attitude both to himself and to others. Only when he begins to understand men’s place in the universe, and their inevitable actions under different influences; only when he fully realizes that neither he nor anyone else does anything but what they must do in the light of their being and their type; only when a certain fundamental illusion of his personality has actually died, will he become free of fighting and quarrelling….Martial tendencies are transmuted by becoming invisible…when passion is swallowed, digested and made invisible, it is precisely that which moves mountains and achieves miracles. The end of war would be just such a miracle.”

He goes on to develop this. “Having fully understood this general guilt of mankind, however, having fully understood that all men are responsible for war, it is next necessary to understand that no one is responsible. From another point of view war can be seen as a purely cosmic phenomenon, produced by celestial influence on a scale where men’s reasons and men’s feelings have no significance whatsoever. A certain planet, at a certain stage in its cycle, creates a general tension on the surface of the Earth, as a result of which men – in their ordinary state of being – have no choice but to fight…If men enjoyed a different level of being, that is, if they could use a sudden increase in inner tension to produce changes in themselves, instead of automatically relieving it against others, then the martial cycle would have quite a different significance. But as men now are, they can bear very little increase in pressure without violence, and in certain parts of the United States, for example, strikes and race riots as inevitably accompany the electrical storms of July as do thunder and lightning. So too with the influence of Mars.”

Collins offers this ending to his chapter on “The Cycles of Growth and War”: “…we can hardly imagine a universe so devilish that danger goes unaccompanied by equivalent opportunity.

“Is it that by mortal danger man is being forced on to some great decision and some great jump in conscious development, which he could never have faced except in emergency?

“We do not know. But the idea is difficult to avoid.” [The Theory of Celestial Influence, Rodney Collins, 4th Impression, 1971, Samuel Weiser, pp. 278-284. Quoted by permission from the daughter of Rodney Collins.]

A fine perspective on the opportunity to further this "jump in conscious development" appears in the Spring 2003 Insight Journal. We're searching in our archives for this important article by astute Buddhist scholar, Andrew Olendzki.

In quite a different approach to the same idea, from a set of three small books with messages from unidentified sources with the titles Handbook for the New Paradigm, Embracing the Rainbow, and Becoming, we read this:

“As the sequence of events seem to accelerate and lineal time to pass more quickly the chaos will grow. Each individual will experience their own sequence of events that are only a small portion of the total picture. The controlled media will report only segments of the true picture. When viewed from the perspective of the planetary whole, there is a far greater degree of chaos now present than can be perceived by humanity. Those yet in zones of calm have little frame of reference for the experiences of those who are in the midst of war, geological or weather phenomena. Though greater global awareness is present, yet there is little exchange of actual experiential trauma between these separate experiences. It would not serve the planetary wholeness if there were such a connection so that all were experiencing the trauma of those within the distressed areas. Those that appear to be uninvolved serve to hold the equilibrium of the planet steady as the chaos is experienced elsewhere. There is a balancing that takes place.”

“Evolution is in reality a growing participation in responsibility. It is not a movement to a Utopian existence of lesser involvement or fewer responsibilities. Just as maturation into earthly experience naturally involves greater participation and responsibility, so also does evolvement into the higher dimensional realms.”

“The key to the entry of the gathered wisdom foci is held within the collective mass consciousness of humanity. Unless the individual and collective desire of humanity for freedom from the oppressive outside intervention that has been present on this planet for thousands of years is focused toward an end to this situation, it cannot and will not change. The only possible help that can be given at the moment is to focus energies into the available thought realms surrounding the planet in the hope that individuals will accept these subtle suggestions to augment the desires that are already there to bring forth a change within the collective thinking of mankind as a whole…If mankind can indeed be triggered to desire its freedom, despite the plans to block any such assistance, then the Universal Laws can and will support them. However the focus is to be held on that which is desired instead of retaliation and resorting to the old methods that have failed to bring mankind manifestation of their desire for change in the past. In other words, the focus must not resemble that which it is desired to leave behind.” (Becoming, pp. 116-120. These books can be obtained by calling Global Insights at 800-729-4131.)

Personal approaches

So this brings us back around to, “What should I do?” How can we, individually and collectively, seize the present opportunity to affect Collins’ great jump in conscious development? I've collected an array of approaches and set forth some of them here.

Those of us who continue to cope with feelings of anger, loss and despair – who have been brought face to face with impermanence and vulnerability – can find assistance in many places. A good starting place is through the article by Miriam Greenspan, “The Wisdom in Dark Emotions,” appearing in the January 2003 issue of Shambhala Sun. She teaches seven basic steps in a very malleable approach to bring about mindfulness and tolerance of grief, fear, depression, and despair. Her book, Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear and Despair, was scheduled for publication in January 2003 by Shambhala.

A highly recommended text for those trapped in fear is What is Lightbody? Archangel Ariel, channeled by Tashira Tachi-ren [first published in 1990; third edition published by New Leaf Distributing]. The humility of this channel speaks well for the information she sets forth. As pointed out in introductory material, fear and chaos are dispelled by deeper knowledge of the process we're involved in. One approach is through understanding of planetary reunification with light and our part in it.

For those of us who seek ways to express our desire for peace without contributing to the very emotions exhibited in warfare, Christopher Titmuss, in the article earlier referred to, advocates yatras, silent walks. He describes that in Pali, the word yatra means “journey”, and in the Buddhist tradition for centuries, the yatra has been a pilgrimage of silent walking. It’s a lot easier to sit on the cushion and radiate loving kindness. Christopher and others of the Dharma Network in Europe have adopted these silent, difficult journeys to get right out there where traditional demonstrators appear, but without slogans or signs they bring the essence of “Peace is Possible” into peaceful movement, sometimes covering 200 miles, and usually walking for six hours.

The Executive Editor of Shambhala Sun, Trish Deitch Rohrer, shares her personal dilemma on page 7 of the May 2003 issue. In her search for advice, a friend – scholar of Buddhism and seasoned practitioner – reminded her of the three generosities: material comfort, fearlessness, and the gift of dharma. Trish has been graced with the opportunity to operate within this last generosity through working with a magazine that fulfills one of the highest missions any publication could hold.

In the cultivation of fearlessness, one of these three generosities, a treasure trove of writing is available in Shambhala Sun. One can begin with just two and go from there. Chogyam Trungpa’s “Conquering Fear” in the March 2002 issue is a mini-handbook for relearning warriorship – our deepest connection with unconditional goodness. His son, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, is author of the Dharma Discourse in each issue of Shambhala Sun. Each of these discourses uplifts and transforms as only a true lineage holder can accomplish through writing. For example, in the May 2003 issue his discourse is entitled “Deep Seeing.” He quotes from Tilopa, a teacher in the Kagyu tradition, who said this to his student Naropa: “The basis of samsara is not appearances; it is fixating on those appearances.”

Our path to fearlessness is always within our own consciousness, as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche points out. To see the illusory nature of all things is clear seeing.

* These quotations are cited with the personal permission of Robert Thurman and Christopher Titmuss, and by arrangement with Tricycle: A Buddhist Review. Further resources are available at www.insightmeditation.org

In truth, this is a never-ending list of approaches to maintaining equanimity during dangerous times. Please return from time to time for additions.

We welcome your feedback and contributions through our Contact Us page.

Update May 9, 2004

Here are two additional perspectives for your consideration. First, the essay "Human Crisis and Divine Plan" by Scott Mandelker, PhD.

I. INTRODUCTION

Understandably, we who seek love/wisdom (both personally and collectively) lament the perpetual darkness of Earth's global culture. Endless warfare, institutional corruption and deceit, vast socioeconomic injustice, education and media folly, mind control commercialism and discord in family relations -- all such common features of human society cause Wanderers and all who care great sorrow and pain.

And yet, our pain is due to our perspective, and our perspective is based on subtle assumptions, many of which disregard Divine Plan and more specifically, the role of Earth in galactic soul evolution. Of course, few souls here venture past their own personal distortions, let alone try to comprehend esoterics of global function in cosmic relief.

Our common view is simple and justified by common sense; however, it is childish when held up to consideration of Logoic Plan and primacy of the Law of Free Will in interdimensional soul evolution. The common spiritual novice view is this:

Human/cosmic evil is bad and should be opposed and eliminated.

This notion stems from our own subjective bias that values love and all it implies: equity, justice, freedom, goodwill, and harmonious social structure -- and there is nothing inherently wrong in it. However, all that exists is allowed to exist, and the Creator has granted primacy to free will in soul progression to allow us to choose our own paths of polarized self-development (what RA terms "service to self" and "service to other" -- the ways of seeking separation and/or unity).

To Logoic being, evil is neither mistake nor tragedy, and the misery that plagues humanity is fully warranted by its own personal and collective karmic inheritance. No, the Creator does not punish, but rather, souls self-generate their own life conditions in both individual and collective formation, and all souls choose their own circumstance to catalyze learning and growth. This is one of the cornerstones of basic metaphysics.

Admittedly, these ideas are controversial and cannot be accepted without significant wisdom and awareness of multidimensional soul law. Beyond the veil, using just a common 3D-mind complex, such ideas cannot be verified nor proven; thus you may disagree. I simply present the understanding that has come to me, and it is up to you to determine its relative accuracy.

Excerpt included here with permission of Dr. Scott Mandelker. His essay appears in entirety at www.scottmandelker.com

What follows is an excerpt from an email message written by Patricia Diane Cota-Robles. She gives her permission to share her material with you. We have excerpted a few paragraphs and invite you to explore her perspective at www.1spirit.com/eraofpeace "This is a confusing and difficult time for many people. From outerappearances, it looks as if everything is going wrong. When we turn on theevening news, it seems as though the broadcasters barely have enough timeto report all of the negative things that have happened during the day.People everywhere are feeling overwhelmed, heartsick, anxious and fearful.

"When we observe what appears to be a world gone amuck, it is easy forpeople to begin doubting and asking questions..... What happened to all ofthe work the Lightworkers have been doing over the past several decades?What about the unprecedented Divine Intervention we are receiving from theLegions of Light in the Realms of Illumined Truth? What about HarmonicConcordance and the influx of Divine Consciousness that is now flooding theplanet? If those things are real, why does it seem like everything isfalling apart?"

"....So here we are in the midst of the experiment, and, believe it or not, weare succeeding beyond the greatest expectations of Heaven. We are on thethreshold of reaping the glorious fruits of our labors. We are beginning tosee with new eyes and hear with new ears. The Light of Divine Consciousnessis filtering into our hearts and minds, and our perception of reality isstarting to shift. The bigger picture is being revealed, and we understandthat the challenging outer-world conditions are a direct result of thegreatly accelerated influx of God's Light.

"There is no separation. We cannot destroy energy. When the Light of Godincreases on Earth, everything that conflicts with that Light is pushed tothe surface to be healed and transmuted back into its original perfection.The problem is when we witness the terrible things taking place all overthe world, we can easily see the result of the negative energy being pushedto the surface, but we have a hard time perceiving the incredible Light ofGod that is pushing it to the surface. Therefore, we mistakenly thinkthings are getting worse. What is actually happening is that the cleansingand healing of Humanity and the planet are being accelerated. Contrary toouter appearances, the Earth is moving forward by leaps and bounds towardthe critical mass of her Ascension.

"This is what we have all been working toward. We knew this chaos wascoming, and we have been preparing for aeons of time to handle it. We havethe strength and the absolute ability to stand firm in the face of alladversity. So what is our responsibility? What can we do to make a positivedifference? How can we change the negative conditions existing on Earth? InTruth, our options are limitless...."

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