In the Middle of All This
This week I made the difficult decision to once again temporarily suspend our in-person weekly meditation gatherings. For those of you who aren't in the area or who attend other Sanghas we are a small, informal friendly group who just share in sitting together each week. The audio I link in these newsletters is usually taken from one of these gatherings. Like many parts of the country (and world) we are experiencing a spike in COVID cases, and I decided that the right thing for us to do was not to add to the pressure and take a short break from our in-person meetings.
Appropriately enough in our meeting last week we meditated on the Pali word tatramajjhattata - a word usually translated as 'equanimity' that is literally made up of the words for "Standing in the middle of all this." I didn't know at the time that we would be suspending the group - or that the new microphone I bought wouldn't work - but it is definitely the right message for all of us in these times. Equanimity is being able to stand strong 'in the middle of all this.'
Last year when we first re-started meetings I posted the following article. At the time it was in response to what felt like a positive change (re-starting our meetings), but the point about equanimity is that it is going beyond preference, so this is equally as relevant when things are more difficult.
Wherever in the world you are, and however things are for you right now I hope that these thoughts are beneficial to you.
Last week marked a bit of a milestone, as for the first time in over 15 months a small group of us met together, physically, in the same room to share in meditation together. It was a little strange at first, with some awkwardness and some laughs, but it felt wonderful to be back.
The occasion got me thinking about how we often think of our lives as progressing in 'chapters,' where we turn a page and move on to the next phase of our life. Meeting together again felt a bit like that. We weren't going back to where we were before, but starting anew.
Of course the world and the nature of time isn't quite as simple as that, but it certainly represents how we often feel. As we stand at the point of a new chapter we can easily become tied up in the memories of the past and our hopes, fears and wishes for the future. When we do that we can become disconnected from the reality of the moment. We can be so caught up with the shift that we end up being anywhere but the present.
There are two different Pali words that are usually translated as 'equanimity.' The one we are most familiar with is Upekkha, one of the four Brahma-Viharas. In his wonderful article on Equanimity Gil Fronsdal describes the other Pali word used in this way:
The second word often translated as equanimity is tatramajjhattata, a compound made of simple Pali words. Tatra, meaning “there,” sometimes refers to “all these things.” Majjha means “middle,” and tata means “to stand or to pose.” Put together, the word becomes “to stand in the middle of all this.” As a form of equanimity, “being in the middle” refers to balance, to remaining centered in the middle of whatever is happening. This balance comes from inner strength or stability. The strong presence of inner calm, well-being, confidence, vitality, or integrity can keep us upright, like a ballast keeps a ship upright in strong winds. As inner strength develops, equanimity follows.
I love this way of looking at things, and I think it tells us how we should be as chapters change in our life. Without clinging or aversion for what has happened in the past, and without clinging or aversion for what may be in the future. Instead we 'stand in the middle of all this.'
Reading this reminded me of the lovely mantra meditation that Ram Dass taught. The mantra is a simple one - "And This Also." This is a mantra that speaks to equanimity, especially equanimity where we 'stand in the middle of all this.'
I have linked below the recording of our gathering last week. It includes a fully-guided 30 minute meditation using the mantra "And This Also." You can also hear me struggle to pronounce Tatramajjhattata! If you think it may be of use to you in your practice please feel free to use it whenever you wish, and to share it with any others who might find it helpful.
Wishing you all a wonderful week - stay cool and in the middle of all this!