Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution. ~ Goethe
As Goethe inferred, metaphorically speaking, life is not a straight ascending ride but more like a universal roller coaster--an endless continuum of dips, rises, and spirals; of beginnings and endings...successes and failures...wins and losses...setbacks and advances...good days and bad days...peaks and valleys...light and darkness. In the human realm we can't have one without the other because we need the contrast of one to give meaning to the other. We just need to remember that this is so and to keep moving, whether we are on an "ascending or a bending" part of the ride.
Life is rife with changes and challenges that perpetually come and go. Throughout the ages masters have described this universal principle as the "heartthrob" of Life, always pulsating in a circular manner that serves the creation, evolution, and, ultimately, the dissolution of all living things. What matters is our perspective of the process and understanding as to how it affects every area of our lives. The ancient wise ones have reminded us that all that "is" has a beginning and an end, where there is a period of rest (or restoration) between what was and what shall be but they never described that period as a permanent stopping place. Just as the planets have cycles, our lives have cycles; day ends with night, night ends with day, summer ends with fall, fall ends with winter, winter ends with spring, and so on it goes, around and around. In short, life is one wild ride on a universal spiral. The secret of the ages has been to experience the ride, the beginnings and the endings, the good and the bad, and not get consumed by either the positive aspects or the negative aspects of them. But how do we do this in a world where there appears to be so much chaos that pummels our senses and pulls us in every direction?
The Wisdom of Equanimity
Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. ~ Carl Jung
Equanimity is defined as "mental or emotional calmness or equilibrium." In the context of this writing, equanimity allows us to stand where we are on the ride of life and simply "be" with it. In other words equanimity is detached observation; it is the practice of being mindfully aware whether we are leaning toward "whatever is" and favoring it, or, pulling away from "whatever is" and disfavoring it and then finding the balance of a neutral position that favors neither. The wisdom of equanimity can be applied when navigating our way through difficult times as well as when dealing with difficult people. It is a mindfulness practice that helps us be the observer of our thoughts and feelings before we act on them in a manner that we may later regret. In Buddhism equanimity might be considered an aspect of walking the middle path because it creates the perfect emotional balance required to stay on the ride and not be seduced by the polarity of life in the human condition.
To cling to the belief that our life is supposed to continually progress in an ascending straight line causes much suffering. If today is a day of curves and bends rather than an ascending straight line, darkness rather than light, sadness rather than happiness, failure rather than achievement, remember that it must have an end just as it had a beginning. Equally important, remember that while it is not to be perceived as permanent, just as a roller coaster stops between rides, there is a period of rest in between the two. Take a breath and fully "be" in that sacred space.
The wisdom of equanimity brings balance to our perspective; it allows us to breathe and experience the sacred gap--the space of what is--that lies between what was and what shall be, knowing as surely as night follows day, this too shall pass. Remember there will always be more peaks and valleys ahead on the spiral of life. This is truly great news because it means we're alive...and that's a ride worth staying on!
Visit Dennis' website for information on his latest book "Your ReDefining Moments - Becoming Who You Were Born to Be" - and audio downloads as well.