Scott Tusa leads an equanimity meditation that works with three kinds of relationships in our life. The purpose is to cultivate compassion, loving-kindness, and understanding.
[00:00:00] Scott Tusa: Welcome to our equanimity meditation. We’re going to take about 10 minutes to do a brief practice on working with three kinds of relationships in our life.
There’s many ways to practice equanimity in Buddhism; this is one tradition within Mahayana Buddhism where we work with three different kinds of relationships. One is a close relationship, someone we like, the next would be a relationship where we have some difficulty, a dislike of a person or dislike for something someone did, and then third a relationship we have more indifference towards, we’re indifferent to the person themselves or in the way we’re interacting with them.
Settling in and reflecting on our intentions
With that, go ahead and find a seat where you can feel relaxed yet alert. If you want to, allow the body to settle. If you’re sitting in a chair, just allowing the feet to rest flat on the floor. If you’re sitting cross-legged, just allowing the spine to be loose yet straight. If you want to close your eyes for this, great. If you want to leave them half open or fully open, that’s also fine.
Just a little bit of an intention we’re going to reflect on before going into the main practice. Why do this at all? Why is this even important? Just reflecting a bit on that.
In order to enact in the kinds of meaningful connections, relationships, that we want in our lives, in order to see a world that we would like to live in, this is really based on having an open, non-biased, relationship to those around us.
If we’re just looking out for those we like, we’re not going to be able to inhabit or live in a world that’s more complete. We’re not going to be able to build, grow, or live in a world that we like, because there’s always going to be those we don’t like. This is really getting to the essence of why we might want to meditate on equanimity.
Another reason is just we can see we want to cultivate loving-kindness, maybe we want to cultivate compassion, but we see it’s difficult for us to do because we meet people and/or have experiences with people in our lives that we struggle with, that we are challenged by.
Equanimity is a great practice to help us expand the kind of compassion and loving-kindness we want to inhabit in our life.
Visualizing the three relationships
With that said, we’re going to go ahead and imagine these three kinds of figures. One, a close one. One, a difficult one. And one, someone we’re more indifferent towards.
Again, these can be either people we have a regular relationship with in one of these forms, or it can be just a certain experience we had with someone. If we’re having trouble finding a person we dislike, we can just remember a moment with someone where they did something we disliked, a friend or coworker. Often, these kinds of relationships actually end up being kind of close to us.
One of indifference, it can be a stranger, someone we run into, we see often in a grocery store, a neighbor or a coworker we don’t know that much about, but it can also be someone in our life that we do have more indifference towards; we’re not feeling that close to them, but we’re also not feeling that distant from them.
Just take a moment to reflect on who you want to bring in here.
A close one is more obvious, it’s just someone where we naturally feel relaxed, at ease, with someone we like.
Traditionally, we place the likable person to our left, in front of us, we imagine them there, we imagine the difficult person in front of us, and we imagine the person we’re more indifferent towards to our right. Imagine here, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a clear image in your mind. You can just feel their presence; that’s also fine.
Noticing without judgement
The first thing I want to bring up is a prompt to tune into what’s happening as you allow these figures to arise in the space in front of you, either feeling their presence or visualizing them perhaps. What are you noticing in your body?
What kinds of sensations? What kinds of temperatures? Is it more hot when you move to one of the figures versus another? How do you feel? Is your body tensing in certain ways when you’re thinking about one versus another?
See if you can welcome these responses. What I mean by this is any kind of feedback you’re getting in the meditation is just that, feedback. It’s information about yourself. We don’t have to judge it. We don’t have to diminish it. See if you can look at it more objectively.
We do this as we look around the room, we’re now imagining, moving from the left to right with our gaze or our felt perception, just feeling the movement, the difference in the shades.
Probably by now we have a pretty good understanding or experience or scope of what we’re feeling towards each of these figures, a little bit of acceptance of that we are having aversion to one, we are having more clinging or closeness to another, and maybe more neutrality to the one we’re indifferent towards. Or maybe that’s arising in a more complex way, which is also fine. Doesn’t always have to be clean.
Now we’re going to do a little bit of an analytical or contemplative reflection. Based on our experience towards these individuals, without saying our experience is wrong, we’re going to actually open up some questions about that.
We’re going to open up some questions about our perceptions, about our beliefs. At the very least we have to have an openness to asking some questions, to opening up to some new perspectives on our beliefs. Here we can just reflect on the basic idea that just as we ourselves want to be happy and want to avoid pain of all kinds, so do these three individuals.
Just reflect on that for a moment. What that means for you, what that might mean for them.
Is that true? Do you yourself want to pursue things that make you happy, that help you to feel at peace, at ease? Do you try to avoid things that cause you pain? I’m guessing, probably like me, that’s most likely true.
Perhaps it’s also true for the one you’re feeling closer to, the one you’re feeling difficulty with, and the one you’re feeling indifferent towards. As you look at each, again, tuning into each of these, starting with the left, the close one, moving towards the one that’s more difficult for you, and then moving to the right and the person you feel more indifference towards.
Really engage with them for a moment and remember that they too want to be at ease, that they want to be healthy and at peace.
They also want to be free from pain. Just tuning into that for a moment.
I want to point something out here with the difficult person. It doesn’t mean you have to actually like what they did. You also don’t have to necessarily make right something that was wrong or harmful. It just means you’re opening up to the possibility that they are also in search for peace. Even when they’re doing something that could be harmful.
The same goes for the person who’s more of a stranger we have more neutrality or indifference towards. Why do we feel more close to the person on our left? Is their happiness and well-being actually more worthwhile than the person we have indifference towards? Just asking some of these questions. Just sit with them for a moment.
Some of these questions we also don’t have to answer. They can become open questions. We just leave and notice how it shifts our beliefs, our perceptions.
If we get overwhelmed, we can just come back to our initial prompt, which is recognition that we all want to be at peace and at ease; and we all are, we all want to be free from pain.
Now taking a moment to connect with your feet and lower body, meaning feel your feet, feel your lower body.
We can just temporarily let go of the contemplation. Just bring some mindfulness to our bodies.
Having cleansed our palate a little bit, so to speak, coming back to the room now that we’ve created in our mind, what’s shifted for us? Just asking this question.
Do you notice how your body sits in relation to each of these individuals? Again, going from the first one, someone we’re close to, to the second one, someone we have some difficulty with, to the third, more of a stranger or someone we have more neutrality or indifference towards. What’s shifted?
Again, there’s no judgment here. This is a practice we need to repeat frequently and often. There’s no quick fix here. It’s just something we’re working on, but just take note here.
How does your body feel? Is that tension still the same as it was in the beginning of the practice? Has something shifted?
Is there a little bit more equanimity here? Meaning, we see the worth and value of each of these individuals. Is that available a little bit more than it was ten or so minutes ago? Again, if not, it’s okay. That’s why this is a practice. We can come back to it.
Gratitude and dedication
This is something I like to do before concluding this kind of practice, which is just to thank each of these individuals. Of course, they’re not here in actuality, but we invited or invoked their spirits to be here.
Just thanking them for helping us to work with our practice, to work with developing more equanimity. Actually, if we didn’t have difficult people in our life, if we didn’t have people we are indifferent towards or close to, how could we develop equanimity?
It’s because of these relationships that we can develop it. Again, just before we close the practice, coming back to the body for a moment, feet, legs, breath.
Gently dedicating our practice towards freedom, that ourselves and all beings can be free.
Well, thanks everyone. I appreciate you joining me for practice here. Scott, thank you so much for your invitation.