Spiritual Survival Skills for a World in Chaos: Access the Strength, Wisdom, and Equanimity to Meet the Challenges of Our Moment WATCH NOW

Meditation Changes Everything

Episode 8 In the Eye of a Hurricane – How to Stay Centered and Grounded Amidst Life’s Challenges

Nearly all of us aspire to be more centered and grounded, especially when the strong winds of chaos or crisis threaten to pull us off track. On the spiritual path, this quality is often referred to as equanimity. When we learn how to access equanimity in meditation, we suddenly find we can remain centered, non-reactive and present no matter what happens to us, even when we feel triggered by events in the world.

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In This Episode…

“Spiritual equanimity is not about feeling content with the world, it’s about being content no matter what you’re feeling. It’s about being at ease whether you feel easeful or not. And we all have access to this. It’s part of our true nature.” —Craig Hamilton

Equanimity gives us the ability to navigate life’s challenges with wisdom, compassion and strength. But where does this extraordinary capacity come from? In this episode, Craig challenges the common assumption that equanimity means being detached from what happens in this world, and explains how true equanimity arises when we become rooted in something much deeper, more profound, and ultimately sacred that underlies everything that happens.

Listen as Craig shares three different ways we can access this profound capacity, inviting you to step directly into the unshakeable core of who you already are.

If you’re interested in exploring more of Craig’s approach to meditation, you’re invited to tune in to a 90-minute online workshop Craig will be hosting called Meditation 2.0 – The Miracle of Direct Awakening. Register here for free.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Episode 8 In the Eye of a Hurricane – How to Stay Centered and Grounded Amidst Life’s Challenges

Equanimity, in the way I’m referring to it, is a quality that most of us find very admirable and desirable in the people who have it, which is this ability to be very steady in the face of whatever life throws our way. 

The ability to remain centered and grounded, the ability to remain present, the ability to keep things in perspective in the face of intensity of any kind. 

 

How We Lose Perspective

We can lose perspective when things are going bad and we’re having a hard time, when times are difficult or challenging, and very often that can blow up and become a whole world and we are no longer seeing in context, we’re no longer seeing it in perspective.

But we can also lose perspective when things are going really well, some incredible windfall or opportunity comes along, or when an extremely positive emotional experience happens, like falling in love. People often lose perspective when they fall in love.

I don’t have anything against falling in love. But the point is, this is the human condition that we’re all navigating, and moments of intensity or great change in any direction, have a tendency to make us more reactive, impulsive, maybe more compulsive, and just not centered and grounded, stable, focused, present, or conscious. 

We lose consciousness a little bit in the face of volatility, let’s say. And volatility can be from external events that are chaotic or disruptive in any direction, or they can also be powerful feelings that sometimes we don’t even know where they’re coming from. 

Sometimes we wake up and we’re just not feeling so great on a given day. There’s a lot going on in the world, right? And a lot going on in ways that impact our lives and those we love and, and that can create tensions and anxieties of unclear origin. We don’t know why, but we just feel disturbed today or things feel out of sorts. 

So in the face of internal or external chaos and upheaval, sometimes we know why and sometimes we don’t, but having strong feelings makes it harder to stay clear and present and to see things in perspective, remaining steady and able to make good decisions. At the end of the day, being able to have positive, healthy responses to life and make good decisions in the face of what life brings our way. That all gets challenged by the inner and outer vicissitudes of living. 

This quality of equanimity is the ability to stay steady, present, and grounded in an accurate context or perspective, even just to stay in a positive orientation to life when things get difficult. 

That can be very hard. 

You may have had a very positive orientation, but then some big challenge comes and suddenly life doesn’t look so positive anymore. It seems like life has gone bad just because we’re having a hard day. 

 

Indifference is a Superficial Form of Equanimity

When we first think, how could I be more equanimous? How could I be more steady? The easiest place to see where we could go in ourselves that would give us that, is to a place of not caring very much about what happens. 

If I let go of caring about what’s happening in this world, if I detach myself from it or become indifferent to it, it’s not going to disturb me very much, right? Why would I be disturbed? I don’t care what happens. I don’t care if the world goes to hell in a handbasket. Okay. Then I’m going to seem to be very equanimous when the world is really having a hard time. 

Similarly, if I stopped caring that much about what happened in my own life. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll just take it, whatever comes, I don’t have an agenda, I don’t have any way I think things need to be, again, that seems like it could bring us equanimity as well.

I would call that superficial equanimity or conventional equanimity, the kind that comes from indifference or not caring what happens. But I’m trying to make a distinction between that and what I’m calling profound equanimity. And by profound equanimity, I’m referring to the equanimity of spiritual awakening, of enlightened consciousness. That equanimity comes from a very different place. 

 

How to Stay Centered and Grounded 

Spiritual equanimity, profound equanimity, is not a result of not caring so much about what happens in this world, or not caring so much about what happens to me or anyone else. It comes from the discovery of a deeper place. Let’s start there. 

It comes from the discovery and recognition that there is something much deeper and more profound, and ultimately sacred going on here at the essence of things. And as I discover that and begin to anchor my life in that, I become rooted in this depth. It’s not that I care less about the world, it’s that I’m rooted in something that’s not affected by the ups and downs of the world. I’m rooted in an inherent positivity, an inherent fullness, an inherent love that’s not caused by things in this world, so it doesn’t get taken away by things that happen in this world. It’s transcendent. 

When we’re talking about equanimity in a spiritual practice context, we’re talking about learning how to bring our attention to a place that’s always aware of the inherent fullness of things, even when things don’t seem so great, so full. When things seem empty, or torn apart, or fragmented, we are still aware of the wholeness at the essence of things. And that makes us very stable and steady, because we are living from the essence, even as we navigate all the chaos of this world. 

Equanimity Is Not A Feeling

So to bring that down to earth just a little bit more, let’s talk about contentment. We tend to imagine that equanimity means we feel peaceful, or we feel content. Let’s say you meet someone who shows up with a lot of equanimity and this kind of steady, unflappable, unshakable presence and conviction in the goodness of things even when things are going badly and the ability to respond with clarity and strength and conviction no matter what’s happening. When we encounter someone like that we imagine, oh, this person seems very peaceful. They seem very calm and centered and grounded, and they must feel very peaceful. And we’ve tried to do this ourselves. We have to feel peaceful, we have to feel content. 

But equanimity is not about feeling content. It’s about being content no matter what you’re feeling. Being at ease, whether you feel easeful or not. Just sit in that for a moment. Because we all have access to this. This is part of our true nature, our natural state that I’m pointing to. Just rest in the part of yourself that is at peace whether or not you feel peaceful from one moment to the next. The part that is deeply at ease. The part that trusts in the flow of this life process and our ability to respond with whatever life needs from us. 

Discovering Infinity In Your Own Being

Another metaphor we use, when working with equanimity is the metaphor of spaciousness, of inner spaciousness. Now, in life when we’re losing perspective or struggling, often someone might say, “Oh, take some time away from that, get some space around it. You need to get some space around that so that you can see it more clearly. You’re too close to it. You’re too in it, you’ve gotta get some space, you have to step back.”

So, what is that metaphor? What are we really referring to here? We all have a sense that space brings perspective, that space, whatever we mean by this metaphor of space, because we’re not talking about actual space, it’s the inner internal space, but that space really helps us stay in a clear and conscious relationship to things. And so to take this metaphor a little further, in a spiritual sense when we invoke a metaphor like spaciousness, one of the things we’re really talking about is consciousness itself. 

If you begin to explore this inner space, meaning the inner space of your consciousness, of your awareness, what you find is that consciousness is infinite. That consciousness, the subjectivity, the awareness that you are right now, that’s hearing me say these words, you may have been taught that it’s some little thing inside your head, but if you start to explore consciousness, experientially, in your own experience through spiritual practice, gradually or suddenly you find, oh, there’s not a place where consciousness ends and there’s not a place where it’s located either. 

Let’s say you think, “All consciousness is in my head, it’s right in the middle of my head.” Well, bring your awareness to the middle of your head. Become aware of the feeling of your head, touch your head, oh, there’s my head. So if you can become aware of your head, where is the awareness that’s aware of your head, experientially? It’s not really in your head. It’s something bigger that contains your head. It’s similar to your body. I’m aware through my body, my senses, and you become aware of your body. You can become aware of your body, your head, all your sense phenomena. But where’s the awareness that’s aware of it?  

Become aware of the space around you and the things in the room. Notice that awareness includes all these things, now that you’ve brought awareness to it. Awareness includes this whole room you’re in. Awareness is everywhere in the room. As you’re aware of it, you notice an object over on the other side of the room now. Notice that your awareness is now over there, including that. I’m not making a scientific proposition here. I’m making an experiential observation.

Through meditation practice, by meditating on consciousness itself, we become aware of this vast ultimately infinite subject that we are. We are this consciousness that isn’t located anywhere. It doesn’t have a beginning and an end. It doesn’t have a boundary. Certainly not one that we can locate. 

What does that have to do with equanimity? When you discover infinity in your own being, in your own consciousness, you realize that that infinity, that expansiveness, is not impacted by what arises within it. 

A Cosmic Shift In Identity

So, awakened consciousness or enlightened consciousness is simply consciousness that’s aware of itself. It’s what you discover when you become conscious of your own consciousness. You start to observe and be aware of this consciousness that you are, this presence that’s not located anywhere, not boundaried anywhere. This infinite space, that is your consciousness. 

When you begin to identify with that, when you begin to become rooted in that, your identity starts to shift to this vast non-local awareness. You become aware that all the ups and downs of life, they’re still ups and downs. You might still experience a lot of emotional ups and downs in response to the ups and downs of the world, but that’s all arising in this enormous spaciousness of your being. And consciousness itself, which is who you now recognize yourself to be, isn’t affected by even the strongest emotional response you could have. Even the most upsetting life circumstance you could have doesn’t affect consciousness. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t affected as a person. 

What we’re talking about is that you, as a human being going through your life, experiencing all the things you experience: the highs, the lows, and then having an emotional life that corresponds to that, you experience joys and delights, and happiness and love and you experience grief and loss and sadness and pain and suffering and all of that is going on emotionally. But now it’s going on inside a person who’s discovered themselves to be this infinite consciousness that’s unaffected by all of that. 

The Inner Strength To Feel More

What we often have a hard time with is we then think, “oh, that means I won’t feel those difficult feelings anymore. Great, I’m discovering the infinite consciousness, it’s unaffected by things of this world and now I don’t have to suffer as a person because I’m just above it all. None of it matters to me.” We have a hard time imagining this without it ending up in a place like, “none of it matters to me, because now I’ve discovered the infinite.” 

But what I’m trying to help us hold is that no, you are still a person going through your life. Things matter to you tremendously. They’ll cause you great upset. All of it. The whole range and even more of the range of the human experience, frankly. 

And so if you’re really able to be equanimous—truly centered and grounded—you’ll have the steadiness and inner strength to feel more. We hear about people who are cut off, shut down. We use these metaphors, cut off emotionally, shut down emotionally dissociated from our experience, repressing, suppressing, what is all of that? 

It says, strong feelings, intensity are unbearable to the psyche, so I keep them out of my awareness, one way or another. Some version of that, that’s what it means to be cut off, dissociated, shut down, etc. I have to keep my emotions at bay because I can’t handle them. 

But when we become an equanimous, awake, conscious presence, we begin to become rooted in that which isn’t subject to the ups and downs, it’s not affected by them. Now we can feel it all. We don’t need to shut down, we don’t need to dissociate. We don’t need to repress or suppress anything. We can include it all, we’re so big, we’re so vast, we can include it all.

 

A Source of Unshakable Inner Resilience

There’s one more piece to staying centered and grounded that I want to meditate on a little bit, which is the metaphor of strength. Because just as letting go can bring us equanimity. Just as being still can bring us equanimity, just as the spaciousness and this depth can bring us equanimity, discovering a source of unshakable inner strength is also a source of profound equanimity. 

I’m not talking about a strength that we build. Normally, when we think about strength, we think I’m going to do hard things, lift weights, do resistance training, in order to get strong physically. Sometimes we think, well, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So when we go through a lot of hardships in life, we cultivate inner strength to become someone who’s capable of withstanding hardship without falling apart. Again, it’s built through challenges. 

But the inner strength I’m pointing to is not that one, even though that one is real and it really counts for something. But what I’m talking about is that there is this indestructible essence to us. Who and what you are is a strong, indestructible essence. 

When we let go of the surface reactivity, and we allow ourselves to get in touch with that deep stillness, to become anchored in this vast spaciousness, to find that easefulness that can allow everything, we’re making room for the discovery of what’s been called our true nature, and this true nature, this who and what we really are, it’s not weakened by the events of life, it’s not eroded by difficulty. It’s a kind of indestructibility. It’s been compared in some of the Buddhist texts to a diamond, as hard as a diamond, strong and indestructible. 

And so, I want to invite you to just rest in your indestructible essence in whatever way you can access that. Letting yourself recognize and be that which is not diminished by pain, by difficulty, by challenge. Just feel that strength, your own indestructible essence.

 

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