I recently returned from a journey to Mexico, during which I was able to completely rest and relax, as well as experience a culture that is somewhat different from my own. As the time got near to coming home, and as I began to transition, I took some time to contemplate and consider the gifts of this journey.
The greatest gift, in a word: perspective.
Stepping out of our lives into a different climate, rhythm, cuisine, etc., creates some space and contrast. The result reminds me of the Sanskrit word upeksha, from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (1.33 for any of you fellow geeks who want to go look it up). Upeksha is usually translated as equanimity, and is a big concept that I’ve contemplated and written about repeatedly elsewhere. For now, consider that the Sanskrit word comes from the verbal root iksh, which means to see, and upa can mean upon or above, so it can mean overlook. I think of it not in the sense of ignoring, but in the sense of a scenic overlook, getting a bigger view, or perspective.
As I transitioned from my relaxing travels to the challenges in my life, I was able to maintain perspective in a way I have not before, and I realized that the greatest gift of my meditation practice has also been this sense of equanimity. Having established a daily meditation practice for the last few years I am able to maintain a greater perspective in a way I had been unaware of. My practice is like a mini-journey. Each time I practice, I remove myself temporarily from my usual outer worldly patterns, and move inside to a different space. It is in that space that I connect with a larger perspective. This larger perspective allows me to meet the world from a calmer, more loving, and more capable place.
I realized how much my meditation practice had given me this gift as I re-entered my Colorado world. On the bus, I started to look at various messages on my phone and found myself getting annoyed as my old buttons got pushed. In quick succession, I experienced anger, jealousy, withdrawal, and annoyance. I definitely fully felt each of these, and in the past I would have been sucked into one or more of them. But spontaneously, a bigger picture emerged, a space opened up, and I was able to just drop it. I saw it as the old pattern it was, like a silly old sitcom. I didn’t find it necessary to indulge, I simply let it go, and moved my energy into a more productive arena. It all happened very quickly and it wasn’t until I looked back on it, that I was able to see how it had unfolded.
The concept of equanimity is a challenging one, particularly since Patanjali suggests we cultivate it toward people who are apunya, non-virtuous. I have been accused of spiritual bypassing when I suggest cultivating such qualities, and I understand how one may think it inappropriate or impossible. But now I am convinced that the regular practice of meditation allows these qualities to arise more readily. When one takes a daily journey from the surface of life to explore the inner landscape of one’s being, one becomes established in the qualities that reside there: in this case an expansive spacious feeling of equanimity. Repeated journeying creates a pathway that allows such qualities to emerge when the challenges of our life demand them. In this way we become established in many of the qualities the sages suggest are at the essence of our being.
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