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Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Danger of Equanimity


Equanimity is prized in Buddhism. Some would say it's the second biggest goal of Buddhist life and practice - the ability to be unswayed by things that happen to and around you. One of the best illustrations of the concept is a Zen story about a notoriously violent military officer who bursts into a Zen monastery and demands the monks bow to him. The abbot refuses to do so. The military officer says to the abbot, "Don't you know that I can run you through with this sword without blinking an eye?" The abbot then replies, "And don't you know that I can allow you to run me through with that sword without blinking an eye?" As these stories tend to go, the officer resigned from the military immediately and became a monk.
Total equanimity is one of those goals that I tend to think of as "rhetorical goals." In other words, like a rhetorical question, these are fine goals but nobody really expects any reasonable person will achieve them. The danger comes in when some people find equanimity to be so valuable that they start to pretend they have achieved it. It's a kind of spiritual bypassing that people believe will allow them to achieve lofty (and perhaps impossible) spiritual goals by "acting as if." What really happens is that they develop all manner of physical symptoms because of the feelings they are denying.

Dog Dragging Butt GIFs | Tenor

Suppose, for some reason that I simply cannot fathom, you decide to redecorate your living room with white leather furniture and a white carpet. That night I go out and eat all of the spicy food I can find and drink a lot of beer. In an intoxicated, urgent need to use a bathroom, I come and crap all over your white living room furniture and carpet, finishing the whole thing off by dragging my ass across said carpet like a dog trying to drain its anal gland. If you believe you could look at me and say, "I was just glad to be of service," you are more full of shit than I was. That is spiritual bypassing on an epic scale.

As we currently exist in varying levels of isolation, denying the feelings you may be having about it will backfire. You feel how you feel. What you do about it is the important thing, learning to cope is the important thing. Pretending it isn't bothering you is not the answer. If you need more proof, on am on my way to the local Mexican restaurant now and will be over in a few hours. Just leave the front door unlocked..

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