"Buddha in the Garden"
At the store yesterday I heard a shopper say to the cashier, "I am so stressed out," and without batting an eye, the cashier responded, "Aren't we all?"
When I got home from the store yesterday, I put the word "stress" into a Google search - over one million responses were instantly returned. Imagine that, there are over a million online sites I can access to read about the causes of stress, the symptoms of stress, the ways to cope with stress.
Interestingly enough, people today are not only anxious and stressed out in the places and at the times when you might expect stress to be manifested - before a big exam, when the work report is due, when a relationship is tearing apart, when finances are tight. But people today also find themselves in a state of anxiety even when they are on vacation, or when they are spending time with their families, or when they are at church.
As I think abut it, it seems as if stress and anxiety have infected the culture in epic proportions.
While the word "equanimity" is not used all that often in popular culture, it is a concept that is frequently found in the Buddhist literature. In fact "the practice of equanimity" lies at the heart of the teaching of the Buddha.
In an age when stress has become such a dominant force, I believe we would all do well to learn something about the "practice of equanimity." I recently came across this definition:
Equanimity is the taming of excesses of thought and emotion
Buddhists often use the term "monkey mind" to describe anxiety, restlessness, being easily distracted. Like a monkey who can't ever sit still, quickly and chaotically jumping from place to place without a pause, people who are restless or stressed out suffer from "monkey mind."
A "monkey mind" is always filled up with constant ideas, strategies and plans about how to control everyday living. In a "monkey mind" emotions rage- anger, fear, doubt, despair, obsessive attachment to another - they pull a person from place to place chaotically and without a pause.
Maybe "monkey mind" is a better way of describing that national epidemic of stress and anxiety that so inflicts our culture nowadays.
The way to cope with "monkey mind" is to "practice equanimity" - to trade "monkey mind" for "mindfulness."
When I sit in my garden for my daily period of mindful meditation, I am essentially practicing the discipline of equanimity. I clear my cluttered mind of all my ideas, all my plans, all my goals and aspirations. I open my heart to whatever comes my way, no matter how wonderful or how terrible it all may be, realizing that I can control none of it, only embrace it, because "it is what it is."
In mindful awareness I am indeed "taming excesses of thought and emotion" - I am practicing equanimity. And, of course my "practice of equanimity" in my garden meditation is practice for the way I try to live life every day.
As I sit in the silence of yet another beautiful desert day, the thought comes to me that the wisdom of Jesus is much like the wisdom of the Buddha. Jesus also taught his disciples to practice equanimity:
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
But seek first the Presence of God.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
With a clear mind and open heart I breathe it all in - what a glorious day.