What is Upeksha – Equanimity?

Amy Bell Yoga Teacher Wellness Wellbeing Lifestyle Blog Equanimity

Equanimity is being calm amidst difficult situations.

Equanimity: Buddhism.

In Buddhism, equanimity (upekṣā / upekkhā) is one of the four Brahmavihārās (also known as the four immeasurables), which are a series of four Buddhist virtues and the meditation practices made to cultivate them.  The other three virtues are loving-kindness or benevolence (maitrī / mettā)compassion (karuṇā)empathetic joy (muditā).

Equanimity: Yogic Philosophy.

Sutra 1.33 from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s. 

Maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam.

Maitrī = Friendliness / loving-kindness; karuṇā = compassion; muditā = delight / empathetic joy; upekṣā = disregard; (anam = of the four); sukha happy; duhkha = unhappy; punya = virtuous; apunya = wicked / non virtuous; visaya = in the domain; (anam = of the four, with respect to the previous four); bhavanatah = cultivating the attitudes; citta = mind-stuff; prasadanam = undisturbed calmness.

One translation reads, “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” The word used here is ‘disregard’ (upekṣā) but it’s referring to being equanimous.

Notice the connection between these two wisdom traditions!

Equanimity is receiving things equally, not pushing them away.

“Training in equanimity is learning to open the door to all, welcoming all beings, inviting life to come visit. Of course, as certain guests arrive, we’ll feel fear and aversion. We allow ourselves to open the door just a crack if that’s all that we can presently do, and we allow ourselves to shut the door when necessary. Cultivating equanimity is a work in progress. We aspire to spend our lives training in the loving-kindness and courage that it takes to receive whatever appears—sickness, health, poverty, wealth, sorrow, and joy. We welcome and get to know them all.” Pema Chodron

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Equanimity is being mindful, open and receptive.

Equanimity is the wisdom of seeing things clearly.

There is a saying in Buddhism, 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys (10,000 referring to innumerable). It summarises how, in our lifetimes, we will likely experience many highs and many lows and continually be caught up in this cycle. Practising equanimity helps us experience life through the wisdom mind instead of the reactive mind (strong likes / dislikes, wanting / unwanting – the desires of which result in suffering.)

Equanimity is impartiality.

“An emotion is like a cloud passing through the sky. Sometimes it is fear or anger, sometimes it is happiness or love, sometimes it is compassion. But none of them ultimately constitute a self. They are just what they are, each manifesting its own quality. With this understanding, we can cultivate the emotions that seem helpful and simply let the others be, without aversion, without suppression, without identification.” Joseph Goldstein

“To cultivate equanimity, we practise catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity.” Pema Chodron

Equanimity is acceptance and patience.

“Equanimity arises when we accept the way things are.” Jack Cornfield

“The bird of wisdom needs two wings to fly. They are awareness and equanimity.” S.N. Goenka

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” Carl Jung

“What is patience but an equanimity which enables you to rise superior to the trials of life.” William Osler

In summary.

Equanimity is not indifference (which is its near enemy). It’s not withdrawal or disconnect; it’s rather that state of impartiality so that we can hold both the pleasant and unpleasant, the easy and difficult. It’s the great empty spaciousness of the mind that can hold it all. It does not preclude compassion and joy; it’s the space of evenness and equality in which all of these other feelings can happen. It’s the expression of the wisdom of how things are.

Check out the next post for an equanimity proverb, meditation and tips of how to cultivate equanimity in your Yoga practice.

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