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Equanimity for the Chinese New Year

It is our tradition to say “Kung Hei Fat Choy” in the Chinese New Year.  Wishing each other good health and prosperity in our blessings is what we usually do during New Year.  In the face of the pandemic and all the crises, we may feel ambivalent when we say our blessings to our family and friends.  It is because we know that we still have to face lots of difficulties and enormous uncertainties in our lives in the coming one year.  I would like to wish everyone a life with equanimity in this Chinese New Year.  What is equanimity?  How can we cultivate a state of equanimity?

When we fall in love with someone, we suddenly become obsessed with the person.  We feel happy whenever we are being with him or her.  We can even enjoy doing mundane chores together.  We like all the attributes of this person no matter they are positive or negative.  We wish we could see him or her every seconds of our lives.  This honeymoon period of romantic relationship is one of the examples of our “chasing after reward” in our brain.  When we feel the pleasure, we keep wanting more and more.  On the contrary, when we frequently quarrel with our husbands or wives whom we married for more than three decades, we start to dislike whatever he or she says and judge him or her in a negative way uncontrollably.  We feel bored when we talk to him or her.  We avoid talking to each other because we want to avoid sufferings from our unharmonious relationships.  This kind of marriage is an example of our tendency to avoid sufferings.  When we suffer, we try our best to avoid further sufferings by escaping from the situations or suppressing or eliminating the sufferings.

Equanimity is a balanced state of nonreactivity.  It is when we can separate the feeling tone of our experience from our craving or avoidance.  That is, we do not react impulsively according to our feelings.  For instance, we can try to be more rational when we fall in love at the beginning of a romantic relationship.  As a result, we can see both the positive and negative aspects of the person whom we are in love with.  This will prevent us from making premature decision before thoroughly understand our lovers at the beginning of a relationship.  When we are able to observe our feeling tone, such as the euphoria during the honeymoon period, and separate it from our craving, such as wanting to see our lovers every seconds in our lives, we will maintain certain level of rationality.  Another example, we may observe our anger or dislike towards our spouses when we have a poor relationship with them in the long-term marriage.  We can separate the feeling from our tendency to avoid being with this person.  In this case, we may be more willing to face the marital problems by seeking counselling or cultivating constructive communication.

When we feel good about something, our immediate reaction may be craving for more of it.  When we feel suffered from something, our immediate reaction may be avoiding having more of it.  At a certain level, this human natural tendency is doing not much harm.  However, when the craving or avoidance exacerbated to an extreme, it can become addiction or pathological avoidance.  To cultivate the state of equanimity, we can practice mindfulness regularly.  With regular mindfulness practice, we develop mindful awareness of the feeling tone of our experience.  We can mindfully observe our likes or dislikes, as well as our tendency to crave or to avoid.  As a result, we can gradually learn not to react immediately to our feeling tone in the face of pleasurable experience or sufferings. 

To maintain a state of equanimity is of paramount importance in the face of the pandemic and all other uncertainties in the coming New Year.  I wish you all a life full of equanimity in the Year of Ox.

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