Uppeka - Equanimity

by Maureen Rae, RN, E-RYT

Last month we wrote about the nine distractions of our consciousness - ways of thinking that can keep us from reaching a place of contentment. In the yogic view, these are:

  • Illness
  • Languor (mental dullness)
  • Doubt (negativity, skepticism)
  • Heedlessness (lack of foresight)
  • Sloth (laziness - fatigue)
  • Dissipation (overindulgence)
  • False views (living under illusion - inability to face reality)
  • Lack of perseverance (giving up or not finishing what we’ve begun)
  • Instability or regression

We offered up a little information on how to overcome these hazards…again, in the yogic view. The Yoga Sutras cite four main ways (there are others!) to detour around the obstacles. These are:

  1. Friendliness
  2. Compassion
  3. Gladness
  4. Equanimity

Suggestions were made last month as to go about building our Gladness Muscle. This month, let’s talk a little about Equanimity.

Equanimity, or Upekkha in Sanskrit, meaning “to look over,” is one of the most sublime emotions of Buddhist practice. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as "abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will."

The word Upekkha refers to the equanimity that arises from the power of observation, the ability to see without being caught up by what we see. To stand in the middle of chaos while remaining balanced and centered in mind. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.

We practice this each day on the mat by pausing at the outset of practice…noticing everything, just as it is, on that day…..in that moment. Physically, mentally, emotionally. We try not to change a thing. We just come. To observe what is.

Practice pausing – often – while practicing your yoga poses, or while moving through your day - to just observe what is going on in your body, and in your mind, without praise or blame, without judgment or labeling, without negative self-talk. Try not reacting to it. No need to travel down the road with each thought that comes up. Come back to your centre. Stand in the middle ground and find that peaceful space. This is Uppeka.