A friend of mine welcomed a new granddaughter into the world on Saturday. And at the same time, her 95 year-old mother-in-law is in palliative care. This reminds me of a verse in Sarah Slean’s song “Cosmic Ballet“
Sick woman in a sick bed waitingSarah Slean. “Cosmic Ballet.” Land & Sea, Pheromone Recordings, 2011.
Light fast fading in her eyes
Somewhere else, another light is falling
Turning into newborn cries
Sarah describes this as the “Ebb and flowing of an ancient ocean / Oh, the cosmic ballet.” And she tells us “A dancer you must be.”
We’re all subject to the full range of joys and sorrows in the world. I once thought that if I could “get rid” of the pain, loss, failure, and blame, then life would be good… but of course if we don’t open ourselves to the pain and sorrow, we’re also not open for the pleasure and joy.
Mindfulness meditation is a place we can train to dance in life’s ballet.
Mark Coleman writes:
Mindfulness meditation is like a training ground in which we get to practice how to meet an extensive range of experience in our body, heart, and mind. We sit still and bear witness to whatever happens, with the intention to be present with curiosity and openness. That is not as easy as it sounds….
Typically, when we don’t like what is happening in life, we try to avoid it, ignore it, or do something else, like switching TV channels. This habit can leave us with an impatient mind, unwilling to tolerate even the mildest unpleasantness. … Not only is this exhausting, it is impossible. It fails to equip us to respond appropriately to life.Mark Coleman. From Suffering to Peace: The True Promise of Mindfulness, page 212
Mindfulness helps build the capacity to recognize and turn towards the truth of what’s happening with a sense of equanimity – a steadiness and balance in the waves of life.
Some teachers compare this to a kindly grandparent, who can observe their grandchildren – playing, fighting, crying, and giggling. The grandparent has wisdom and perspective from their years of experience, so they can take this all in with a kindly manner, and yet still take appropriate action out of a place of love and caring.
So too, we can learn to meet the changing conditions in our life with this broader perspective. Or at least meet the resistance and judgment that may arise with balance. And that gives us the capacity to respond.
There are different ways to cultivate equanimity in practice. Diana Winston gave a brief talk and then led a meditation on October 1, 2020, called “Equanimity like a Mountain,” as part of the weekly UCLA Mindful Awareness Podcasts at the Hammer Museum. You can access the recording directly here:
There is about 5 minutes of talk before about 25 minutes of meditation, which invites us to sense into an embodied feeling of steadiness, like a mountain.
How are you pulled away from steadiness or stability? What tools do you use to cultivate steadiness/spaciousness in those times? I welcome your reflections.