There's a certain clarity that can arise when equanimity is present and we drop our objections to the present moment, and our doubts about our own good hearts. From there it's possible to drop into life in the fullest and most powerful way, looking inside and remembering the intentions to be present and do no harm, and then looking up, rolling up our sleeves, and getting to the work of saving our small corner of the world. It's a lot to explore in ten minutes, but that's what this episode is about. Enjoy.
Hi everyone, it’s Judi Cohen and this is Wake Up Call #302. This Wake Up Call is dedicated to the memory of George Floyd and all the other Black men and women who’ve been victims of police violence in the U.S., and all people everywhere who are in danger or whose rights or privileges are impacted because they’re not a member of the dominant group wherever they are.
I’ve been sharing G.R.O.U.N.D., which is an equanimity practice – one that I’m liking because it’s also providing me with a lot of clarity.
If you were here several weeks ago, I was talking about the definitions of equanimity and how important both types are, in the law. Upekkha, to look over or see the big picture with clarity, seeing that no matter what we wish for others, the things they choose to say and do will determine how things go for them, and we can’t change that. How, many times, things don’t go the way we want even though we work really hard and do a great job, and that’s because other factors, other conditions, have also given rise to whatever has happened. For example, defending someone accused of a crime, or representing someone in a dispute, we do our best and the verdict or motion or judgment goes against our client, or there’s a student whom we do our best with and they still do poorly in a class: countless possible factors have contributed to this. Uppekha is seeing this clearly, and then of course taking whatever action, maybe very fierce action, is needed.
And Tatramajjhattata, which is standing, in a balanced way, in the fire of things. To me this just the definition of practicing and teaching law: to stand at the podium or to sit in a conference room or at a screen and to be in the intensity, and not lose our balance. To be grounded and connected, including to everyone involved, and to be able to be a source of strength and wisdom, in the heat of the moment, in the fire of the world.
G.R.O.U.N.D. is seeing more clearly when I wish I could do more or change something for someone else or for the world, and I’m doing everything I can, and there are other causes and conditions that prevail. And standing in the fire of this incendiary profession, and in the middle of a world that’s on fire, and staying grounded and balanced.
So G, ground: touch into the earth and connect with one another and remember that every human, every being we know of, is on the earth, or under it, or flying above it, but connected with the earth, so we’re all connected, directly, physically, with one another.
R, rest. Yesterday I got to workshop G.R.O.U.N.D. with some of the 2020 Mindfulness in Law Teacher Training grads and one colleague said, lawyers never rest. So true, and I’m going to circle back because it’s a big question, how we can bring rest into the law. But for now, R, rest, can be as simple as, take one breath and rest while you’re taking that breath, or rest on one out-breath.
O, open to whatever demons are present, no matter whether they’re exhaustion or exasperation or aggravation or whatever. And then U, unclench and let go in the face of those demons. Don’t get identified with them (as in, I’m always angry). Don’t make this a self-improvement project by trying to wish them away so you can “become” something, like “less angry.” Just unclench and let go and say, “These are my demons. Hello, I love you.” As Mary Oliver said,
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on....
And then N, notice how you’re doing. Someone else yesterday suggested that N feels like taking a step back and noticing from the perspective of the observer: the way we see pretty clearly, if we’re honest with ourselves, when we’re happy, when we’re depressed, and whether we’re wanting things to be different than they just are. And although we have a natural human ability to do this (and maybe other beings do, too: I just watched My Octopus Teacher, which is so good!, and now I’m not convinced other beings don’t), then our solitary mindfulness practice increases that natural ability to observe, because during solitary practice that’s what we’re practicing: we’re practicing noticing experience, moment by moment, with courage, with grace, and without trying to change it or deny it or get better or wish it were different.
So here’s the last letter, D. D stands for drop.
First, drop the objections. Don’t object to anything. I once heard Jack Kornfield talking about one of his teachers who was asked what he did when strong negative emotions arose for him, and he said, “I agree, I agree.” So, drop any objections to what’s happening, moment to moment. Also, drop any thoughts that you’re not doing enough, any sense of not-enough-ness at all. Any doubt in your practice, in your own good heart, in your ability to create a better world just by virtue of your practice (plus everything else you’re doing).
And then, since G.,R.,O.,U., and N. are about looking in, into our own good hearts, and D is about dropping all objections to the present and any doubt about our ability to be the change, last, drop any obstacles to rolling up your sleeves and doing whatever work has heart and meaning for you, for your community, for the world. Drop into your corner of the world, see what you can do to relieve a little bit of suffering today, and do it.
Ground in the earth and in community. Rest in the moment. Open and see clearly what’s here. Unclench and get clear about your demons, your own good and generous heart and your hard-working hands. Notice from the place of the observer, which is where there can be great equanimity and clarity – about what you can and can’t do, and how to stay in the fire of things. Drop anything that’s not useful, including any doubts - any obstacles at all – and then go out today and make the wisest, most heartfelt contribution you can, no matter how small.