How to Develop and Strengthen Equanimity

"The remaining question, then, is how to develop and strengthen this amazingly beneficial quality of equanimity. There are a few succinct teachings that describe how we can develop it in the midst of our worldly activities.

Forego Attachment

"At one point, the Thai master Ajahn Chaa held up a cup in front of a group of his students. He said that the best way to relate to the cup is as if it is already broken. We use it and take care of it, but we remain unattached because we know it is subject to change.

"In the same way, there is a powerful reaching in the Bhagavad Gita, the great Hindu text, that says we should act without attachment to the fruit of the action. We can do what we do with full commitment, but the outcome is often beyond our control. When we act without attachment to the outcome, then our minds remain peaceful no matter how things unfold.

"The last of these teachings that I have found helpful in my life is something the Dalai Lama emphasizes — namely, that the value of an action is measured not by its success or failure, but by the motivation behind it. When our motivations are skillful, then we can abide in equanimity regardless of whether we succeed or fail in our endeavors.

Associate with Wise, Equanimous People

"The Buddha taught that associating with wise, equanimous people strengthens equanimity. As the texts say, 'Avoid those people who go crazy.' If you have ever watched some of the political news shows, you can understand the wisdom of this advice. Panelists are often shouting down other peoples' views, firmly attached to their own, hardly engaged in meaningful dialogue. Although it makes for good theater, just in watching these shows, much less participating, we can feel the energetic impact of such exchanges. They are hardly conducive to equanimity.

Practice Its Brahmavihara Aspect

"We can also develop equanimity as one of the brahmavihara meditations. The classical phrase that is repeated in this practice is, 'All beings are the heirs of their own karma. Their happiness or unhappiness depends on their actions, not upon my wishes.' As we repeat these phrases, first in regard to someone we feel neutral about and then successively in regard to a benefactor, a friend, a difficult person, and all beings, we are reminded where happiness truly lies. Although we may wish for people to be happy and at peace, that outcome will ultimately rest on their own actions. The practice of equanimity in this way allows us to hold the wish for their wellbeing with proper balance, and each repetition of the phrases can be the offering of the gift of wisdom.

Practice Wise Attention and Continuous Mindfulness

"Finally, we develop equanimity in our insight practice through wise attention and continuous mindfulness. We practice inclining the mind toward equanimity and not being seduced by the lesser happiness of excitement or the simple enjoyment of pleasant feelings. This is a mind that is imperturbable and balanced, with an impartiality that embraces all. The Buddha summed it up well when he said, 'There is no higher happiness than peace.' "