My grandmother lived until she was 92 years old. And not only did she live until she was 92 years old, but she lived on her own, cooking and cleaning and even shoveling the snow from her walk. I can remember flying home for the summer and dropping into her world for an afternoon or two, listening to her stories of the 19 year old version of herself and feeling a deep peace and restfulness in her presence.
I longed for her quiet routine of waking, making her one cup of coffee for the day, preparing a meal, watching her TV show (Walker Texas Ranger- AKA Chuck Norris- this may be a cultural thing, but even for a Canadian this was a weird pairing), speaking with her daughters on the phone, etc. She didn’t need anything- she had everything she needed. The same worn blanket sat on her favourite chair where she would watch the world through her window, the same sheets adorned her bed, the same hand creams stood by her bathroom sink. This may sound boring but she was happy. She was settled.
In her later years, nothing really disturbed her or excited her. She handled all of the family dramas with poise, integrity and acceptance.
She embodied equanimity.
The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines equanimity as “evenness of mind especially under stress; right disposition : balance”. Moreover, Gil Fronsdal, explains that “ while some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.” (https://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/articles/equanimity/)
My grandmother was filled with generosity and warmth and deep, deep love, even though for some, her life may have been viewed as tedious.
Lately my life has been filled with anything but equanimity. It has been overtaken by one intense experience after the other. In the past two weeks, I have experienced pure bliss, life-stopping fear, great excitement, painful anguish, all coupled with moments of gratitude. My head was spinning- waves were surfed! However, my grandmother and her quiet routine kept popping into my mind as if it was shore to rest upon.
Then yesterday, I was reading Sharon Salzberg’s book ‘Real Love’ and she states that “[o]ur tendency, of course, is to seek out intense experiences in order to feel alive. If our attention is not trained to notice routine or subtlety, we simply wait for the next big hit and switch off until then” (p.123). And I smiled with the realization that throughout these turbulent weeks and ‘big hits’, and with the unspoken intention to reach that shore, I actually have started creating some routines.
I have started sitting in my favourite chair, working away on my laptop as I watch the world through my window. I have started preparing meals in the morning so that I have good healthy food for when I am finished work. I have started re-watching my favourite Canadian TV show ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ as a treat in my evenings.
I don’t need much more than this. I feel more settled. The ‘big hits’ are being faced and moving on without my needing to intervene. I’m feeling less reactive. Most importantly, my mind feels more stable and I am noticing the beauty in the subtleties.
So, this week’s challenge is to set the intention to notice the routines, to notice the subtleties. For me, these small routines can feel like little ceremonies in themselves. In fact, I’ve heard Jon Kabat Zinn throw away all working definitions of what mindfulness is by simply explaining that mindfulness is living life as if each moment is important. And maybe if we can move towards this noticing, we will not need big moments to feel alive, rather a more equanimous peace may just settle in (for awhile ?)
This is what my grandmother was so good at. Living each small moment with intentionality and with attention. She was a wonderful teacher.
I’ll be guiding the membership weekly sit tonight from my favourite chair, why not log on and join me? Not a member? You can sign up here
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