From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Hey, gang, it's part four in our Election Sanity series throughout October, we've been trying to help you stay engaged in current events without losing your mind. As you know, we've been drawing on an ancient Buddhist list called the four Brahma Vihara, which are for mental skills that can be enormously helpful.
Over the last three episodes, we've taken deep dives into loving kindness or friendliness, compassion or giving a crap and sympathetic joy, which I call the opposite of schadenfreude.
This week, it's equanimity, the secret sauce that allows you to apply all of the aforementioned skills in difficult times. Our guest this week is perfect for this subject, precisely because she freely admits that equanimity, which she calls vitamin E, does not come easily for her. Roshi Joan Halifax is a Buddhist teachers and priest, anthropologist and pioneer in the field of end of life care. She's been passionately, politically engaged for pretty much all her life. And as you will hear, she does not hold back on her own personal views, even as she calls for extending respect to people with whom we disagree.
Wherever you stand politically, this interview is filled with practical advice for cultivating equanimity without going dull.
Quick reminder, before we dive in our free election sanity meditation challenge starts in the 10 percent happier tomorrow. You can join the challenge right now by downloading the 10 percent happier app and be ready for day one of the challenge, which again starts tomorrow. We're really excited about this thing. We designed it specifically to help you meet this moment and lean in to the commotion of the election without getting burnt out or overwhelmed or anything else that you don't want to join the challenge.
Just download the 10 percent happier app today. I'll see you in there. It's going to be great. That said, here we go with today's episode with Roshi Joan Halifax.
OK, well, Roshi Joan, great to see you, thanks for doing this. It's wonderful to see you again, Dan. Thank you so much for inviting me and also giving me this interesting assignment, which, as I said to the people who are, you know, in the background organizing, if there is one boundless abode that I need to work on, it is equanimity. Why is equanimity so challenging for you?
I think because I'm a passionate person, I also am maybe more in touch with contemporary events than some practitioners. And I think really, since the mid 60s, I've been socially engaged and have a sense of what it is to actualized justice in a world that is increasingly fraught and increasingly unfair. So, you know, I feel the suffering. I have a lot of loving kindness toward people. Sympathetic joy is very accessible to me. And of course, as you know, Dan, I spent many years studying compassion and then working in the end of life care field, really working on developing the strength of compassion in my own life.
But equanimity has been the, if you will, the biggest assignment, but the one I'm least compelled to explore.
So, you know, I thank your team for asking me to do this because it gave me a chance to look at my own behavior, but also how important this quality is in the world today.
Do you have a suspicion, perhaps even subconsciously, that equanimity would be the enemy of effective social engagement?
Well, as you know, the near enemy of equanimity is indifference. And sometimes equanimity in the literature has been described as neutrality. So I think that the near enemy expression of what we know is equanimity is a challenge.
But I look, Dan, as equanimity is having big arms, not arms that are overweight, persay, but big arms so big that it can hold everything. It rejects nothing. And this kind of reminds me of what it is to be a grandmother. You know, it's an expression of grandmother's heart. That's an expression we used in Zen Shin. This is a heart that is without fear.
So, you know, any time we hold something apart from us, we're afraid of it. And grandmother's heart means we're including everything I want to go deep on this concept of grandmother's heart, which you wrote about in a recently published essay, which we'll link to in the show notes.
But let me just step back for a second. How do we define equanimity? What is it?
Well, the Polish word is interesting. The Polish word is who pecc? And it literally means to look over. Another way of describing it is to look with patients. And I've described it as a kind of metacognition where you are bearing witness internally to whatever is arising and holding whatever is arising, not pushing it away, not grasping it, not being ruled by like and dislike.
But actually equanimity has this quality that is quite fascinating. In other words, you know, I used the image of Robuchon of Grandmother's heart and grandmother's heart has this feeling of, you know, I've lived a life, I've given birth to children, my children have given birth to children. I've seen birth and death of birth and death. And Grandmother's heart has wisdom, has insight.
So it is why I believe equanimity is laced throughout the different exalted lists of realization in Buddhism.
But it is not, to be clear, sort of bovine neutrality.
Not at all. In fact, I think it's really the opposite. It is to have that internal capacity to be deeply grounded, to have a strong back, which I'll be sharing in the meditation, but also an open front, a front that is wide open and that allows for one's subjectivity, one's sense of self to expand into an experience of radical, inclusive city.
So let's just go over that again, because the last time you were on the show, you talked about strong backs up front. And I think it's worth saying more about it because it is something we can bring into our daily lives just by thinking about our posture. So can you just give us a few more paragraphs on how to operationalize this idea of strong backs up front stand?
This is a beautiful physical metaphor for an internal state which actually gives us the capacity to uphold ourselves in the midst of any conditions and not to turn away from whatever is arising. And so, you know, in the meditation that I teach, Dan, using this physical metaphor, but it's also an embodied experience.
It's not simply a metaphor. I begin with inviting people first to allow their attention to be in the breath, to just begin that embodiment process and then inviting people to get grounded and then to move their attention to their motivation. You know, why are you doing this practice? It's so important that we have an altruistic intention. And, you know, that sets the field, that sets the feeling, if you will, and then we begin this exploration through the body, which allows us to cultivate or nourish qualities of heart and mind that give us strength to be in the world and to connect deeply.
So I often begin that part of the process with an invitation to people or for people to get grounded, to maybe bring your attention to your feet on the floor or your bones on a cushion, and to understand that mental stability and embodied stability affects our capacity to see clearly.
It's very important if we're up regulated, if where our attention is all over the place, if we're moving out of anxiety, then it's we don't see the reality very clearly. We lack insight. We lack wisdom. So being grounded is very essential.
And then to shift our attention to our back as a physical metaphor, but also as an embodied experience and the images of strong back, even if your back isn't so healthy, then relating it a little bit more to the notion of a metaphor, but still this capacity to uphold ourselves.
In the midst of extraordinary complexity and Dan, part of this has to do with not being a stiff, if you will, a corpse like but having like a stock of bamboo, being nimble, being flexible, being pliable, because this is very important.
If we're rigid, if the back is rigid, it can break. If we're mentally rigid, we can crack and crack and not necessarily a good way.
So this sense of dignity, of presence, of upholding ourselves in the midst of all this complexity and also presence that is so important, I have found in working with dying people of the kind of work that I have done in the prison system with people on death row, men on death row, and also just with students who are up regulated or people suffering from deep grief being present and having the strength there and complemented by the open front, our capacity to really stay open and to bear witness, be present for whatever is happening.
You know, I learned so much from my teacher, Roshi Bernie Glassman, about this when we were doing bearing witness retreats in outfits, you know, what is it to sit in a concentration camp and try to concentrate?
What is it to walk into the Auschwitz museum and see a case filled with human hair or another case of children's shoes or another glass case of eyeglasses or stacks of suitcases?
What is it to bear witness to the truth of suffering? And that is really, I believe, Dan, what is required today as we move through this process that we call election?
You know, this run up to the election is extraordinary. We never, as far as my lifetime is concerned, we've never approached anything like this. We thought that the Gore Bush, Mr. Goss, you know, was crazy enough.
And but this really between the pandemic, the behavior of our fearless leader, so to speak, and also the polarization and extraordinary racism in our country right now, combined with the climate catastrophe.
We need to be grounded, have a strong back and an open front. We need to see things clearly and we need to act out of that wisdom.
And that is what this meditation is about. It is about the embodiment of equanimity, which is, as I said in the beginning, the actualization of, you know, these big arms that can hold anything and uphold oneself as we're holding the suffering of the world. So the duality of strong back, soft front allows us to both be grounded and dignified in the face of the vexations and vicissitudes of life, but also open and soft and receptive to the suffering.
And the net effect of this combination is the kind of balance that equanimity entails, and you're the perfect student.
Thank you so much.
But you know, Dad, it's actually not a duality because equanimity entails compassion and compassion entails or includes equanimity.
They are not separate. They inter are.
And I think this is one of the really important aspects of this boundless about to understand, for example, that the preceding three boundless abodes of loving kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy are reside within the geography of equanimity.
I want to mention something else first. As I said, strong back, soft front. These are not separate qualities. Just like the back of your body is not separate from the front of your body. You can't have one without the other.
So that's a very important thing to consider that they are, if you will, two sides of the same coin.
But another thing is to play with the metaphor a little bit more. And that is what is it to have a strong front and a soft back?
So, you know, it's very interesting because if you look at some of our politicians, they are embodying exactly these characteristics. This defended front, this kind of puffed up chest, this sort of armor of identity in the front of themselves. And actually what's happening on the back side, so to speak, is fear is a week back. They're unable to uphold themselves in the midst of conditions.
And this is just so important for us to notice.
You know, when you see somebody who has that strong front, you know, really stuck on their identity, then you begin to realize what's behind them.
Actually, what's in them right now is fear, because so much energy is being put forth in defining and defending the self. And not recognizing with strong back, soft front that our subjectivity, our self is interrelated with all beings and things, even the most malicious politician, a regulated politician we inter are with this person.
It's interesting you talk about Harbourfront soft back. As I listen back to many of the episodes of this podcast, sometimes I'll go back and listen back. A big theme that seems to emerge is that and I've mentioned this a few times recently, so I apologize to listeners if I'm being repetitive.
But a big theme that seems to emerge is that we are more up quite naturally, often early on in our lives in response to the harshness of the world, the threats of the world, and that in many ways the job of the rest of our life is is to see the radical power of disarmament because that armor is preventing us from being real, from being all those annoyingly cloying, clichéd words like authentic or et cetera, et cetera, that the armor is preventing us from connecting to other people, et cetera, et cetera.
So it seems like this is the job.
And I'm really grateful that you mention this because. Exactly, Dan, this is the issue at hand, that whether it's global armament, if you will, it's bringing munitions that are embodied, that is physical munitions, pointing nuclear weapons at each other.
This is really coming out of strong front, soft back, or whether it's indirect in terms of the bullying that is happening, for example, between our country, from our country to other nations to other world leaders.
So, you know, you see this behavior and you realize, aha, OK, how do we actually not separate ourselves from the experience of this aggressive, hostile, disparaging, bullying, disrespectful behavior?
And recently I picked up a a nice little bit from a wonderful meditation teacher.
She was quoting Mahatma Gandhi, and she said once Gandhi was asked, what would you do if a plane was flying over your ashram with the intention to bomb you? And Gandhi answered, I would pray for the pilot. And this is actually something I think many of us are doing right now. You know, we're praying that so and so wins.
I personally am praying that Biden and Harris prevail, is looking hopeful, but also I'm praying for Trump. Yeah, I'm sending him Metuh.
I'm recognizing the quality of mine that he's in right now, which is really fear based that is suffering. And I wish him to move out of that suffering. Maybe it won't happen in this lifetime. Maybe next, who knows? But still, he has earned that consideration by virtue of the fact of that anger, anguish, fear, rage, need to control, need to display his masculinity that is suffering.
That's very tough row to hoe. And so like Gandhi, but he would do it much better.
I think many of us are praying for the pilot, so to speak.
You mentioned this before, but I think it's worth expanding.
That equanimity is the final of the four Brahma, the the four immeasurable, the four heavenly abodes, whatever you want to whatever grandiose title you want to give this list, can you say more about why it's the final quality or mental skill in this list and how it interacts with the three preceding?
So, yeah, I think what is so interesting is that equanimity is actually the last in several lists which are about spiritual development or about spiritual formation and the experience of awakening.
For example, it is the last in the four boundless abodes. The problem of the horrors, it's the last in the ten parameters, the ten perfections.
It's the ultimate jhana, the ultimate form of absorption, experience of absorption.
And it's the last of the seven factors of awakening. So it is perceived from the. Point of view of Buddha's experience, but I feel very aligned with having equanimity, being the, if you will, fulfillment of all the other characteristics in these various lists, pointing to back again to this sense of the capacity not to turn away in fear or aversion from anything that is rising in reality, not to grasp or cling, but to be and certainly not to be indifferent and not to foment cruelty.
But it's that capacity to actually grandmother's heart, rowby shin to open our arms and to take everything into what is our subjectivity, our experience in this moment.
So in a way, we could look on it as the quintessential factor of realization.
Equanimity is and specifically as it pertains to this list, the four Brahma varas. Why is equanimity so important?
In some ways it doesn't seem at first blush, it doesn't seem related to these warm, you know, often called heart qualities of, you know, loving kindness and compassion and sympathetic joy.
And then there's equanimity and it's like, wait, wait, was that a non sequitur?
So why is it the fourth and final here? And why is it so important in terms of operationalising the preceding three?
I think that there is a structure here that requires a foundation and that foundation includes the other three, probably Harz. That is to say, equanimity without loving kindness is called equanimity. Without compassion doesn't care.
Equanimity, without altruistic or sympathetic.
Choi is not affected in the sense of positivity, is not lifted up by the joy of others. So you know, these characteristics, the preceding qualities are really important and they inter are with equanimity because we also know that loving kindness without equanimity produces conducive to the near enemy, if you will, of loving kindness, which is attachment.
And the far enemy of loving kindness we know is of hatred.
So, you know, if equanimity isn't there, making, if you will, providing the balance for love and kindness to be grounded, it can even flip into hatred.
And the same is true of compassion, you know, the compassion is this capacity to attend deeply to another and to have the feeling of concern arising within one about the other suffering and then having the capacity to actually discern what might serve and the deep aspiration to end that person or beings suffering without the grounding, without the ballast of equanimity, compassion becomes pity or lapses into empathy, which is, you know, empathy is important. But empathy that is not regulated can lead to over identification or compassion can flip into cruelty.
And the same with sympathetic joy, having the vitamin, if you will, of equanimity in the experience of feeling the great heart, joy, well-being, good luck, good fortune, blessing that another has experienced that sense of deep resonance when you see another benefit, but without equanimity being there, it can move into a kind of mind of comparison. Well, what about me? Or even into too much exuberance and equanimity? Give sympathetic joy is the sense of love and gravity and brings wisdom to bear.
And of course, the the far enemy of sympathetic joy is of envy.
So equanimity is, if you will, it's kind of like vitamin D, but in this case, it's vitamin E, you know, we need it.
We need the sunshine of equanimity in our lives.
Yeah, it's the linchpin here. And the way you described the sort of how the qualities, the three preceding qualities flow into it and then equanimity flows back into the preceding qualities is quite beautiful and useful.
And now that we really have a full understanding of how important equanimity is, let's go back to how hard it has been for you, because in discussing that, I think you give us all permission to view this as a practice, not as sort of immediately attainable perfection.
So right before we started rolling, you were saying that you woke up in the middle of the night last night worrying about something having to do with current events, just to point out that equanimity is not something that just comes naturally to you.
Thank you for raising the curtain, so to speak, opening the window. It's true. I woke up at three a.m., even though I'm in the mountains and up at 9400 feet, surrounded by three million acres of national forest. I came down to you Paia today, Dan, you know, because we're we're on satellite. I'm on satellite there. So the transmission isn't always so good. So your team wanted me to come down, which I didn't want to.
By the way, thanks a lot.
It's not that I'm indifferent to the world, but I would rather be at a higher altitude, so to speak, literally and figuratively.
But in any case, through satellite, I'm able to keep up with what's happening in the world through the New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and Twitter. Accurate my Twitter stream carefully, as you can imagine. So in any case, I woke up at three and I know quite a bit about steroids when we're at high altitude, you know, work in the Himalayas, if people move in to altitude sickness, often our team will give them, you know, exactly what Trump has been given and whew, that is a ride.
You know, it enhances one's sense of omnipotence in a way that is really a little eerie to observe. And I kept thinking, you know, already this person is grandiose, he's sick. We do not know have a clear picture of what's going on. Clinically, though, we did see him like a goldfish out of his bowl gasping on the balcony. And, you know, I'm sending him lots of loving kindness, compassion. But I woke up at three and I was worried for our nation and the world because it's very difficult to manage oneself in this up regulated state.
And it's also very difficult to manage anyone in that kind of state. And I so I sat up at 3:00 in the morning and I took.
Some really deep breaths, and like Gandhi said, I sent the pilot loving kindness, compassion, and there wasn't any sympathetic joy in others, but I sent him, may you find balance as you move through the journey of this illness?
But I noticed my own heart was beating harder than usual. I have very good cardiovascular system.
I also noticed that my mind, you know, internal experience, I was up regulated and that the irony was I was coming down from the mountain to talk to you this morning about equanimity.
And it took an hour for me to sort through the threads of my concern. But I did not want to reject the concern. I wanted to actually keep it alive, because I think it's an important part of my nature to stay in touch with the truth of suffering. But finally, to apply a method, if you will, to allow myself to down regulate and to go back to sleep.
So I wouldn't be a complete wreck during our interview from Sleep Loss.
Much more of my conversation with Roshi Joan Halifax right after this. Staying informed has never been more important, the information is coming at us faster than ever. So how do you make sense of it all? Start here. Hey, I'm Brad Noki from ABC News. And every weekday we will break down the latest headlines in just 20 minutes. Straightforward reporting, dynamic interviews and analysis from experts you can trust. Always credible, always solid. Start here from ABC News 20 minutes every weekday on your smart speaker or your favourite podcast app.
A comment and a question to comment. I am actually increasingly familiar with the effects of steroids because I was on a meditation retreat for the last couple of weeks in Maine and I got a horrible case of poison ivy. And so they put me on steroids. And primarily I noticed two things.
One, horrible acid reflux and two, seeing real rage arise. In my mind, I didn't feel omnipotent, but I definitely felt at key moments, especially if I was driving just real anger coming up in ways that I had never seen or I hadn't recently seen. And so, yeah, it's those steroids are no joke.
The question, though, for you is, as somebody who's engaged in the work of boosting equanimity, have you considered not looking at Twitter anymore or reducing your news consumption?
You know, I do reduce my news consumption every day or so, you know, partly because I go out and hike in the mountains in order to transform my sense of helplessness into some sense of agency. I think this is a really important point, though, Dan, in Zen, we talk about the Supreme Mial.
We say roll everything into your practice. But I also feel like doom scrolling news, obsession, the reality theatre of the president's health, looking at the incredible polarization in our country. You know, we're in a really interesting process right now. And it is like a sort of serial tragedy or a serial mystery. We we are not content with just letting go and resting and not knowing and letting the nervous system rest.
You know, I'm in a place where if I'm at you Pyo, there's meditation various times, every day there's teaching that one must do. When you're my age, you keep yourself as physically fit as possible. So when I'm up in the mountains, I'll be, you know, whole days, nights without any input from the outside world. But I remember one of my Tibetan teachers just due to Rimpoche, he said it's really this was in the television era.
And he said it's really important to watch television. And I'm like, oh, you've got to be kidding. And he, you know, he used TV as a way to strengthen his equanimity. And I also have followed that practice. Do not turn away from the truth of suffering. Walking into the charnel ground of a prison, walking into the pod of death row inmates, going to Auschwitz, standing in the midst of hospital charnel ground. You know, these are places where there's extreme suffering.
Do you overidentify or do you objectify or do you find that sweet spot in the middle between the two poles in the internal ground practice where you're not dissociating, you're not by passing, but you're also not overwhelmed by the truth of suffering. So, you know, sometimes I go on tilt, you know, I wrote the book Standing at the Edge. I talk about it. You go over the edge.
And what Bill's character, Dan, is that you're able to actually, you know, crawl out of the mud and back up the mountain to stand at the top and you develop strength and character by falling over the edge. But it's not that we have to seek the edge. The edge finds us.
And it's not that we have to throw ourselves over the edge. We don't we will get pitched. No listening to you, I.
I find myself toggling back and forth because, you know, I work and that obviously in the news business. And so I'm exposed to a lot of news and I cover a lot of really disturbing stories.
But I think that I probably developed some conscious or subconscious coping mechanisms where either, you know, protecting myself from really taking it all in because I'm in the role of journalists or I I'm able to tune it out in some way because, you know, I listen to you and I think, wow, Roshi Joan just sounds like such a raw nerve, like she's taking it in in such a powerful way.
And, yeah, I get upset by things in the news, but I'm pretty easy.
It's pretty easy for me to switch my subject to. Yeah. Bianka, what are we going to watch on Netflix tonight or I got to take my son to Cub Scouts tonight or, you know, worrying about some ridiculously narrow, selfish concern, whereas when I hear from you this really unaffected concern for the well-being of the nation and the world and and I don't know where I'm going with this, but I toggle back and forth between thinking, that's great.
And, wow, that seems like a burden. And wow, maybe I'm doing it wrong. You know, I love what His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, there are 84000 Dharma doors and each one of us has a diet appropriate for ourselves.
My particular ingredients, you know, you're getting some sense of I think this is our third interaction. You're getting some sense of, you know, the ingredients that are appropriate to keep me alive and aligned with my values.
You know, other people have other ingredients. I think what's important, though, Dan, is that we don't engage in kind of Monov diet, that we need to have a very diet. It's not that I'm just sitting there feeding on suffering. Hardly.
I have so much beauty and joy in my life, such deep friendships, so many good laughs where I have the, you know, the blessing. Instead of flying around the world, which I have for decades sharing teachings with others, you know, I have the blessing. I'm in super quarantine, you know, OK, there's no plumbing, OK? There's no central heat. I get to, you know, put little wood in my wood stove every night to keep myself warm up there at nine thousand four hundred feet.
But I have a varied diet, and this includes taking direct draft, if you will, of the truth of what's happening in our world and then, you know, balancing all of that, which allows me to open my heart to our fearless leader, so to speak, with some humor, grandmother's heart, some tenderness, concern.
But also I look out at the blazing fall, the incredible aspen trees like a personal cathedral that your natural cathedral, you're out there, you know, and it's it's all gold with spikes of red. And that is important. You just cannot stay in the suffering.
That's what's so beautiful about the problem of yours is that, you know, you have four different kinds of vitamins, if you will, loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
And when you have them in combo, the possibility for health is present.
I love that. I think you've answered in many ways the question I'm about to ask you, but I feel compelled to ask you again, because I suspect that even in the repetition, there will be new gems. So as you know, at the end of the last episode on Sympathetic Joy, the meditation teacher who we interviewed on that subject to our salon had a question for you, which was, how do we keep equanimity alive, vibrant and upbeat as opposed to dull, which is often the case for equanimity.
What response do you have to that question?
I don't think that I've experienced equanimity as dull. Actually, I've experienced it the opposite as brilliant. And so how do I keep it brilliant? Well, you know, one of my personal secrets is a sense of humor. I find both humor. That is, you know, I find many things very funny. And, you know, I have friends who love to laugh.
I actually have friends who tease me mercilessly and caused me no end to my own personal upwelling of joy. I love to be effectively teased, if you will. I'm not mean. You know, the only people who can really tease me well are my really close friends that you just they know how to get me laughing.
But, you know, part of it is, is to understand that when equanimity becomes dull, it is a withdrawal. It's a kind of bypassing. And so if you're bypassing, then, you know, it probably means you need a little bit more of the vitamin of loving kindness and you can be the recipient of it through friendship. You can give it to countless beings. But it's good to actually warm the heart, moisten the heart intentionally, as I understand Metta or lovingkindness.
Having practiced it a little bit. You can and this may not be the appropriate phrase, but there's a little bit of faking it until you make it. In other words, you know, at least what I've what I've liked about the instructions when I've heard them is that you are repeating, you're envisioning being and you're repeating phrases like, may you be happy, may you be safe, and you don't actually have to feel anything. It's just about going through the motions of working the muscle, of sending the good wishes and maybe the emotion accompanies it.
Maybe it doesn't. So there's a certain amount of like. Let's just do the the reps with, as my understanding, your argument with equanimity, you really can't fake equanimity.
You know, Dan, first of all, if you think about the reps that most of us are engaged in, for example, the rep of disparagement, the rep of despair, the rep of anger, that's what's going on inside of our mind. And we're reinforcing that content in a way that is really unhealthy.
And, you know, again, my work in relation to health care professionals and being in environments where there is horizontal hostility, you know, egregious disrespect really coming out of a negative or toxic reps, so to speak.
So what I believe is happening in this experience is, you know, pretty much as you describe it, you're changing the under Mudar. You're shifting the narrative, which is habitual to a habit that is prosocial less toxic.
And I think this is a very clever strategy because it's changing, if you will, what's called the store consciousness, the content within the store consciousness, within the conscious level of our experience.
So I think it's a very handy, dandy strategy, actually brilliant on the part of the Buddha.
And also, Dan, we well know it can produce cynicism, skepticism, alienation and everything that we're aware of in the shadow. And that is for us to see as well how sneaky the ego is. The ego will simply, you know, it's like an assassin of the good. It's just, you know, waiting behind the biggest rock for any morsel of goodness to come and it attacks.
So, you know, you look, oh, this is a rising and you turn lovingkindness toward your ego, not buying it, buying into it, being consumed by some kind of sentimental relationship to it. But to recognize this is exactly the landscape where I suffer.
Is there more to say about how we can cultivate equanimity in meditation? You talked about the practice of strong backs from our you know, I know in some schools of Buddhism, there are also phrases that can be used. So do you have any further thoughts on the meditative cultivation of Lupica?
Well, I think the phrases are wonderful. You know, the first foundation of mindfulness is mindfulness of the body. The body is the repository of a huge amount of information.
And so as a result of that, most of us are dissociated from the body because we don't want to listen.
But in this case, listening to the body and noticing when the gut grips, when the heart rate increases, when the tension in the shoulder or the jaw is present, the body is saying, whoa, I am struggling in a certain way to keep balance in the midst of conditions and then working with the breath to help regulate. And then very importantly, this has to do with recalling our motivation. I want to transform my suffering in order to benefit others.
But in the meantime, I want to bring as many to the other shore as possible.
So I heard two things in there. The second of which I want to explore a little bit further, because it's an area of personal curiosity and fascination for me. So the first thing was a one way to cultivate respect or equanimity is just to watch how your body's reacting, especially as you're watching the news during this election season.
And just by seeing it and letting it go over and over and over again, you are cultivating a sense of steadiness and ease in the face of all of the tumult that may be available to you on your television or on your the screen of your phone. The second thing I heard was that another way to cultivate equanimity is to get in touch with your motivation.
I don't think most people do this systematically. So it might be worth you saying more about how we can do that to identify and then to have a system where we're identifying our motivation and then reminding ourselves of it on the regular.
You know, I think this is such an important piece to explore right now, because without touching into a motivation that is unselfish, that is fundamentally altruistic, we will just.
On a big self-improvement program, and that is, I don't think what this practice is about, this practice is about, and I'm thinking a lot about take that hand, by the way, Chanty Davor as well, and many great yogis in the history of Buddhism. And it is this realization that we are not separate from each other and that in, you know, the deepest kind of awakening, it is awakening to interconnectedness, interdependence and interpenetration. And that is, I think, critical.
So, for example, in one of these early Indian texts, Shanti Davor talks about, you know, you're walking along, you step on a thorn and your right hand immediately goes to your foot to pull the thorn out of your foot.
And it's an automatic reaction. And so with equanimity and compassion and loving kindness and sympathetic joy provide as, if you will, the landscape where we are not separate from all beings and things. And as such, then this motivation, which is not just about I'm going to be enlightened, I'm pushing for enlightenment, credible commodification of liberation, while this is actually something totally different.
May I serve others, bringing them to the other shore even before my own awakening, my own liberation? So having that motivation, which is deeply altruistic, is, I believe, key in our practice right now because it allows us not to have the ego reified.
Whereas if we're going just for our personal enlightenment, of course the ego is completely reified, it's substantiated, could get substantial. But this is brilliant early Buddhist strategy from basically around the time of Jesus, where the things, you know, Buddhism began to transform into a Mahayana perspective. And what opened up was this vision of deep interconnectedness. Therefore, this unselfish motivation is liberating and it perfume's our practice, it perfume's our life. You know, if you're a clinician and you're working just for money, that is what's going to stink your life up.
But if you're a clinician and you've gone into medicine and nursing because you want to free others from sickness and suffering, then that is what will perfume your life and your service to others. So how do we identify whether we want to be enlightened or not?
I'm not sure.
I'm not sure where listeners stand on that question, but how do we identify and articulate a unselfish motivation and then how do we remind ourselves of it regularly so that we're in touch with it and not lost in selfishness?
It's such a great question. And what I do and many other practitioners do is that I bring to mind someone who is really struggling. It could be a student. It could be a dying person. I have a close friend who's dying of breast cancer right now. She's entered into that into a world state. We talked just last week. So, you know, I bring her into my awareness and I just send her so much loving kindness. And the hour that I spent on the Zoome call with her last week was an hour where we recollected moments of joy in her life.
And she went from a fairly futile space into a space that was characterized by a lot of laughter and a lot of appreciation and joy.
So it's like bringing this into my lived experience, feeling it so magically feeling it in my heart. I'm not being disassociated from it. I'm not doing it as an exercise, if you will, but doing it as, you know, something that's coming from a very sincere place, a place I really feel for you. It might be your child, your little boy who sounds like a really incredible kid.
But, you know, he he struggles. You want a world for him that is not filled with rancor. You want a world for him when he's your age where he is has joy. So you send that aspiration to him really contemplating your son's life 20 years from now, 30 years from now, 40 years from now.
And you know, Angela Davis, as you said, you have to have imagination in order to survive this kind of situation. We have to be able to imagine the best for your son. And then to work for that, we have to imagine the best for the planet and men to work for that.
And I think another person whom I really admire is Ali Pariser, MoveOn. You know, you also have to have some kind of confidence, faith, hope. You have to operate really from a base of possibility that is not sinking mind, but where whatever outcome, you'll meet it. But in the meantime, you'll give the very best that you can.
Speaking of that, if the election doesn't go your way, how do you think your equanimity is going to be?
I think it will be deeply challenged. How about you?
Well, as we've already established, I'm a professional at numbing myself out. So actually I'm being facetious there. I think how will my equanimity be, no matter how the election goes, if the country is if we're at each other's throats, it's going to be a real challenge for me to be economists. And what will help is identifying ways in which I can be useful and then working on that, I think that's exactly where we're at.
You and I and many of us, you know, whatever is given to us up to that point, we have done our best and then we're going to do less. No, no. We'll meet it. And that is what I think. Also, Enterprisers pointing to, you know, have the confidence, the strong back, the open front, the soft front to meet the world fully no matter what happens. And you know something, Dan?
There is one thing that I really have learned from dying people and from Buddhism. Trust in the truth of impermanence. You know, that Berlin Wall came down. Things will inevitably change. We don't know in what direction. Probabilities are always put out there.
They're kind of trapped in a certain way.
And part of our work, it's the work of the Bodhisattvas is how do we ride, learn to ride the waves of birth and death. That is our work, riding the waves like the Bodhisattvas avalanche, etc. the body sort of great compassion, riding her surfboard, perfectly balanced with equanimity on the waves of birth and death. Well, good luck. You know, we'll do our best. But we also know in a way it's like sailing. You can't sail straight into port.
You're always tacking. So, you know, we're going to be always correcting our course. And that is, again, one of the, I think, perspectives that is so helpful to realize that my friend Carsten Ohashi, he talks about and it's really inspired by Zen Master Dogen, continuous failure, continuous failure.
Well, may you course correct. And continuously fail while laughing. That's the assignment.
Currently, this has been as always, you've been on the show three times. Every time has been a delight. Have I failed to ask you something that I should have asked?
Well, you failed to ask me about the world's the winds, but we don't have to talk about them. No, let's do it.
I kind of like them because one of the powerful things about equanimity is that it is a kind of protection from what are called the worldly winds.
They include the experience of praise, you know, just being completely admired.
And great blurbs on your book and your hairdo is gorgeous and you're the most wonderful person in the world. And it's opposite blame boy.
And we are in a praise and blame world. And equanimity protects us from the stickiness of both praise and blame. Also, the world, the winds associated with success, how important it is for us to succeed, of course, at any cost.
Big problem and a failure. The. Other side of success of the sense of not humility, but a humiliation that arises from the experience of failure, and so equanimity brings us to this experience of not being attached to outcome. We do the best that we can, but success and failure are natural experiences in the psychosocial realm to navigate through, but not to be stuck by. And then pleasure and pain and how we work that equation in our life, seeking pleasure, chasing, you know, with addictions and place avoidance of pain or falling into the grip of pain and wallowing it and again, equanimity.
Is this just this powerful antidote to the stickiness of both pleasure and pain?
And then the last of the eight world wins the last two hour fame and disrepute the loss of our reputation.
And what's important in these sort of eight worldly wins is our capacity to actually recognize when we're in the grip of one or another and to do what Maroochy says, opening the hand of thought, opening the hand of feeling to loosen the grip and to allow equanimity to be present.
It's funny you talk about how equanimity is key in terms of living between the toggling back and forth of praise and blame and gain and loss and pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute. But to me, it's actually that there's an enormous amount of equanimity to be derived simply from the name of that list of the eight worldly wins. If you see these changes that we all go through in our life, not as the result of personal failure, but the result of nature, just like the wind.
Well, that is a big gust of equanimity right there.
Exactly. And this is one of the reasons for our practice is so important going back to what the word equanimity means in poly.
It means to look over.
You know, I talk about it in terms of metacognition.
It's that capacity to see the place of the knot is tightening and to loosen it and to see things also in the spirit of deep patience and not to be ruled by the tightness, by the grip, by the fear.
You know, there's one other thing I want to mention, and it comes a little bit out of observing my own experience, but also what's happening all over this country in terms of just wild disrespect and knowing.
One of the the third Brahma vihara is sympathetic joy and its shadow or its far enemy is schadenfreude. You know, it's just this engagement with deep disparagement, loathing of criticism of, you know, of humiliation, of bullying and so forth.
But what's been very powerful to observe in my own experience and, you know, just interacting with others with the diagnosis that Trump is, you know, has been subject to having contracted the virus and seeing, you know, many of his cohort falling victim to the virus and realizing it's a time to, you know, both understand the value of accountability, cause and effect karma, you know, in this case, action, response causes and conditions.
But on the other hand, not to be caught in the kind of cruelty that, you know, I have flashes of schadenfreude, like he got what he deserved. Well, he did. He got what he deserved. And this is really hard to go through for everybody, including him. So it's working that edge right now.
And it takes wisdom and it also takes keen self observation not to be caught in the updraft of this whirlwind of disrespect, disparagement and bullying.
Well said. Always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much for doing it. Thank you.
Dan Big thanks to Roshi Joan. Really appreciate her coming on. And you can see more of her in the challenge. Speaking of which, quick reminder, as I mentioned at the top of the show, you can join the challenge right now by downloading. The 10 percent happier app and be ready for day one tomorrow. We're very excited about this ton of work, went into this and really appreciate all the teachers who participated. So to join the challenge, as I said, just download the app and I'll see you in there tomorrow.
And before we go, big thanks to the team who put this thing together. Samuel Johns is our senior producer. Marisa Schneiderman is our producer. Our sound designer is Matt Boynton from Ultraviolet Audio. Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. We got a ton of massively useful input from our colleagues such as Jen Point, Nate Toby, Liz Levin, Ben Rubin, and extended. Thank you to all the people who worked so hard to put this Election Sanity series together.
Jade West and Jessica Goldberg. Crystal Isaac, Matthew Hepburn, Julia Wu, Nicole Johnson, Allison Bryant, Josh Berkowitz, Class Dignity, Lizzie Hoak, Zuleika Hasaan, Connor Donahue, Derek Caswell, Eva Breitenbach, Maggie Moran and many, many more. Lastly, as always, big thank you to Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen from ABC News. We'll see you all on Wednesday for an episode with Daryl Williams, who has invented the fifth Brahma vihara. She says Semih facetiously, and that is gratitude.
And the question will be addressing is, can you be grateful when everything kind of sucks?
See you then. And now a message from our friends at Disney plus Mandele, thank you for coming. I'm here on business. The acclaimed series returns to Disney Plus have been questioned to bring this one back to its kind. This is no place for a child. Wherever I go, he goes to experience the next chapter. Go, go, go. Streaming October 30 is. This is the way the Mandalorian new season of streaming October 30th only on Disney plus.