Mindfulness Activity #130
Loving Kindness to Help With Equanimity
Good Morning. We have been discussing the importance of equanimity-being firmly rooted, calm, and yet connected-even in painful or difficult situations. Mindfulness practices that emphasize noticing and paying attention to present experience develop our capacity for equanimity. This may involve observing and describing a peanut, and also includes noticing one’s internal experiences like thoughts and emotions.
Yesterday we discussed that being either overly attached or being completely detached from experience is a major threat to calm composure. Today, I thought we would think a bit about how being too attached or not connected enough is a problem. When we are too attached, we become desperate and develop tunnel vision. We become like a drowning person grabbing the person trying to save them who brings down both of them.
When we are stuck on one path, one outcome, one person, or one thing, we have a very high degree of need to control. It is that intense need to control that makes calm composure impossible and plummets us into fear. Attachment causes us to fear any threat to our perspective, plans, or preferences. We get anxious and angry when anything threatens our control.
What then is the problem with the other extreme…not caring, being detached, having no preferences or plans? Well, being detached removes us from emotions like joy and feelings of connectedness. We can become insensitive to the suffering of others.
So, yesterday we practiced walking the middle path—being present, and connected, but allowing and accepting outcomes contrary to our preferences and plans. I started thinking about how hard it is to let go of attachment to physical things, but perhaps even more so to our wishes, thoughts, and perspectives. I thought about what practices could make it easier to let go of the need to control and could reduce the general fear that goes along with loss of control.
My favorite practice, metta meditation, or loving kindness meditation seems to have a lot to offer here. Loving-kindness can be described as a mental state or an attitude that is achieved and maintained with practice. It is the act of generating unconditionally warm, nonjudgmental feelings towards yourself and others. The key to this practice is the warm, positive feelings. Loving kindness does two things that make it easier to develop equanimity. First, when we sit in warmth and recall love, we realize that we are safe and well. This practice reduces the generalized fear that something bad will happen if we don’t hold the reigns of our experience fiercely. The second thing such practices do is to help us to feel connected and warm towards others, thus ensuring that we do not become detached or cold in our quest for equanimity. Loving kindness meditation also seems to be one of the quickest acting and most potent practices we have. Watch this clip by researcher Daniel Goleman on this type of mindfulness practice (you can skip this part if pressed for time, but come back when you can…findings are impressive):
Daniel Goleman on the effects of loving kindness – https://www.mindful.org/loving-kindness-meditation-makes-better-human/
Then, for today’s practice, please breathe and click the following link to practice loving kindness…
Throughout your day, try to notice experience inside and out without trying to control it. Try not to control your emotions, so much as recognizing them kindly (whether they are convenient or not). Try to notice conflicts with others without feeling threatened by them or judging them. Notice any unpleasant emotions these interactions prompt. Recall the feeling of safety and loving kindness generated this morning. Take in your moment to moment experiences with the confidence that we have resources in abundance, we have few absolute needs, and there are often multiple effective paths for achieving anything.