If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
kind-hearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (translated by Stephen Mitchell)
Once you begin to taste the freedom of your true nature and are no longer bound by your ego identifications, your way of being can become significantly more graceful. Just as a tiny jasmine blossom can powerfully uplift a whole room with its heavenly scent, you can go about your responsibilities with your family, colleagues, and community while radiating peace and clarity. The virtue of equanimity helps you take a noble seat inside from which you become more spiritually elegant. It helps you stabilize in that which is never rocked, even though the ground beneath your feet may be quaking. Cultivating equanimity increases your capacity to respond wisely to the changing landscape of life.
First, Relax Your Reactivity
In recent years, more people have come to me seeking support not just in navigating their personal spiritual challenges but in learning how to grapple honestly with their concerns about the state of our world. I do not claim to have the answer, but I do have great faith in the power of holistic inquiry to access the wisdom we each need to bring forth our best. What often blights the way is our ego’s tendency to launch into problem-solving from within a consciousness of polarization. Before you can wisely respond, first you must relax your ego’s effort to troubleshoot from its inevitably limited understanding. Without first relaxing your reactivity, being in the world from a consciousness beyond it is impossible.
Even when you know that taking a moment to practice ego relaxation rather than just running into action from reaction is sage advice, it can trigger fierce resistance. You would not be alone in insisting that the problems you perceive must be fixed before any peace or equanimity is possible. This is a variation of the ego demand we discussed in chapter 9 on forgiveness: “If this changes, I can be at peace.” Feeding this insistence will only bind your precious resources. Better to engage the virtues of trust, patience, humility, sincerity, and forgiveness to serve you in meeting everything with an open, loving heart. Then the clarity about what to do or not do can find you.
Sometimes you cannot help but get triggered into reactivity, especially in the areas that matter most to you: your intimate relationships, family, career, or health. Equanimity helps you to accept your humanity and forgive your attachments to a particular outcome. Then it is possible to be graceful even when a wave of anger arises. Rather than judging, projecting, or blaming, with equanimity you just meet whatever comes up as information, energy, or heat so it can burn the false down to something more essential.
Meeting Challenging Times with Spiritual Maturity
In these complex, uncertain times across the globe, we need spiritual practice more than ever, not just to give us respite from the intensity but also to grow deeper and broader roots inside, as a great tree does, so we may be more flexible with the winds of change. There is a great need for more of us to stabilize our realization, not just for our own peace of mind but so our way of being provides spiritual shelter for others.
It is not easy to stabilize in equanimity when confronted by the news of yet another painful explosion of hatred, extremism, racism, or violence, not to mention the increasing natural disasters arising from climate change. It is deeply disappointing to behold leaders behaving disgracefully and corporate greed remaining unchecked. The way of Grace does not grasp for a spiritual platitude to push past the challenges of our times that do not have easy answers. While you might want to be selective about the quality and quantity of the media you engage in, at the same time you will not mature spiritually by living in a news-free bubble or by getting hysterical or dissipating your precious energy by railing against what is.
Living gracefully means turning everything into the path of awakening. This can include practicing ego relaxation while taking in the news. Equanimity invites you to not judge the judgment or hate the hateful and to forgive yourself when you slip into polarization anyway. Marianne Williamson invites us to think of the news as humanity’s prayer list. When you take in a news report from the awareness that you are not separate from everyone and everything, natural compassion arises for “our” collective ignorance and suffering.
Living gracefully amidst challenging times calls us into a new prayer:
May I stabilize in the infinite Source,
open my heart to all that arises,
and grow into a deeper, wiser,
more responsive human being.
Living into such a prayer asks you to embrace all that is arising, within and without, as part of the full mandala of your life.
Excerpt from THE WAY OF GRACE: The Transforming Power of Ego Relaxation, by Miranda Macpherson. Sounds True, November 2018. Reprinted with permission.
Miranda Macpherson founded OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation in London, where she trained over 600 ministers. For more information, visit mirandamacpherson.com.