Erasing the Blackboard

I remember being so excited in elementary school when it was my turn to erase the blackboard at the end of the day. Making all the learning and thinking disappear, almost without a trace. It was rhythmic and calming pushing the felted eraser across the board. Or up and down. Or in big circular swirls. Words and numbers, assignments, messages and mistakes blurred into little specks of powdery chalk. Maybe what was there would be remembered. But maybe not. It was important at the time of writing it on the board. If the teacher used colored chalk it was really important. Or maybe even something to be anticipated with excitement! Whatever was written there was erased at the end of the day and the slate was left clean for a new day and new things.

At the end of the day I often find myself sitting quietly going through everything that my brain held onto during the day. Kind of like looking at that school day filled blackboard. There is much I can easily dismiss, erase. Some of what was written there is a little harder to completely erase. I have to go through those things by steps, gradually sifting through the layers till it can be blown away with by a thought. Some things seem to have been written there with non-erasable chalk. These things can almost be completely erased, but not quite. Just enough shadow writing remains that I can always read exactly what is there.

In the process of my daily attempt to sort through things I have been hanging on to, I feel as if I am becoming lighter, less bogged down. I sort, compartmentalize and throw out millions of little things. Like the process of erasing a school blackboard the background becomes mostly clean, uncluttered, receptive, fresh.

As this happens I make room for the thoughts, feelings, ideas, “things” that do seem important for me to write down and look at again free of the clutter of daily hording of unneeded and unwanted information and emotions.

Gratitude. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Courage. Resolve……

In Buddhism the most important of these are referred to as the Four Radiant Abodes. These are human qualities that, upon reflection, are sublimely simple. Universal expressions of a heart that is open to the world and all living things. We know them as:

LOVE    COMPASSION    JOY    PEACE

I see these qualities daily in the faces and expressions of young children. We feel it in the embrace of a loved one. We see it in the eyes of others.  Something lights up when we are in the presence of someone who is filled with these qualities. These qualities shine outward from the heart. We see, experience how these things can transform others. And when we are touched by them we are transformed too.

These are a few of the things that are permanently written on my blackboard. But, sometimes, during the day they get written over. Lost. Hidden. Sometimes maybe even forgotten about. I erase the blackboard each day to bring them back into my consciousness in a more prominent light. Hoping not to write over them so much the following day. Because that does happen when frustration or anger surfaces. When disappointment or tiredness takes hold. When there is stress or worry. When things in life make me feel rushed and I become frayed around the edges. When I feel let down or uncared for. Lots of things get written on my blackboard, pushing other things to the background.

In their shadow purpose, love, compassion, joy and peace can cause me to form a lot of attachments to people and things. So equanimity is there along side them in counterbalance. To let some things go. To let the thoughts and emotions pass over me and not so much through me. Caution ever the reminder, equanimity can lead to excessive detachment, so it is held into balance by love, compassion, joy and peace.

With the blackboard erased and the mind at rest we are peaceful and our hearts are open. In this space of equanimity we meet others in peace and we are filled with love. When this love meets others in pain and suffering it transforms into compassion. When this love meets happiness it becomes joy. Equanimity and love, compassion, joy and peace in balance. We become transformed into our highest state of being.

At the end of the day I try to take the time to erase my blackboard and find renewal. The I feel as if I have come home to the dwelling place where I can rest, residing in the abode of immeasurable love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity.

crazy garden

one garden at my physical home!! 

There is no faith, religion, culture, class or race that owns these qualities. They are in each one of us as human beings. We all carry within us the seeds of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. It is however, up to us to nurture and tend them with understanding, patience, tolerance, acceptance, humility, acceptance, respect…..supporting and caring for their growth.

On my blackboard, the slate of my being, never to be fully erased, are the life driving qualities of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. They are the pillars of the place where I dwell in my heart. Sometimes, the goings on of daily life write over them, obscuring them, dimming their clarity, but they remain the foundation of my human-ness. As I take time to let go of unwanted, unneeded clutter caused by longing, desire, uncertainty, anger, fear, jealousy……so many things, erasing them away, I come face to face with what is the true foundation of who I want to be, who I can be, who I am.

I strive to do this every day. It is a goal. Always a learning process. Always humbling and grounding.

 

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Fully Present For Life

Equanimity is not a word in my vocabulary that I use often. I imagine that is true for most of us. It is however a word/thought/concept that does live and express itself in my internal dialogue.

noun: mental or emotional stability or composure,
especially under tension or strain;
calmness; equilibrium

Don’t we all experience moments throughout the day when we are desperately trying to find balance? Equanimity?

In Pali equanimity means  “upekkha, translated as ‘to look over.’ It refers to the equanimity that arises from the power of observation, the ability to see without being caught up in what we see. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.” It includes the idea of a kind of ease that comes from being able to see the bigger picture. Perhaps “to see with patience” or with understanding. It means we do not have to take any or everything personally.

A slightly different interpretation is “to stand in the middle of all this”. Being centered and finding inner strength and stability. Balancing to keep ourselves upright, grounded.

balance

In Buddhist philosophy the concept of equanimity offers a buffer against or possibly protection from the “ ‘eight worldly winds’:  praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute.” These are the things in life we can easily become preoccupied with, wrapped up in. When we become attached to or caught up in any of these, they often become the cause of our unhappiness, our dis-ease with ourselves and our life.

Equanimity can be fostered through honesty and sincerity, conviction and confidence, mindfulness, well-being (taking care of our body and mind), nurturing understanding/wisdom, insight and letting go of our reactive tendencies.

Finding and nurturing balance is important. It is one of the pillars of mental health. It is found in all religions. It is found in the healing arts and lines spiritual pathways. Equanimity is of value. It helps us to be healthy.

By developing and using the power of observation, and finding an inner balance, mindfulness evolves.  Equanimity becomes stronger and we find that we become more balanced in the middle of stress or turmoil. We begin to experience a kind of freedom and independence as we let go of the things that blind us, hold us down and keep us living in a fog. Unable to see and afraid to go forward. I read an article once that referenced “fog goggles”. Fog goggles are the practices and choices, thoughts and actions that help us see clearly. Fog goggles help us see through this fog in order to see with clarity how to become balanced. Fog goggles show us the way to equanimity.

Through equanimity we understand compassion and become fully present to life. We can look at things and situations in the world and bear witness to those things with an open heart. We can pause, and in balance and stability, without threat, anger or fear, we can look at our individual and collective relationship to those things and acknowledge them as being real. Instead of allowing the reactionary responses of fear, anger and hurt that bind our heart and results in us closing our heart, eyes and mind to hurt and suffering, we find we can be compassionate and be fully present to the suffering of others. And of ourselves. It is balanced engagement with life.  With equanimity we find we can be open to all of life with a kind of poise and serenity. Not only do we accept the beautiful things in life, but also the unpleasant parts of life. In a state of equanimity we cradle tenderly the loved as well as the unloved, pleasure as well as pain, the desirable as well as the undesirable, ourselves and “the other”. There is nothing we need meet with reluctance and hesitation or shun with revulsion, fear or hate, anger or indignation.

In striving towards being fully present for life we can find a peacefulness that seeps deeply into our core and releases us from loneliness, worry, fear, longing….and allows us to find sweet repose in being where we are.

Fully present for Life

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~~photo by me. Frabel Glass exhibit at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh. Frabel Glass