At peace

South Brent, nr. to the River Avon (2020)
South Brent, nr. to the River Avon (2020)

equanimity (n.)

c. 1600, "fairness, impartiality," from French équanimité, from Latin aequanimitatem (nominative aequanimitas) "evenness of mind, calmness; good-will, kindness," from aequanimis "mild, kind," literally "even-minded," from aequus "even, level" (see equal (adj.)) + animus "mind, spirit" (see animus). Meaning "evenness of temper" in English is from 1610s.

I accept — fully — that being at peace is desperately hard in the midst of a long-raging, egregious pandemic.

In fact, I'm sure for a lot of people — of all ages — they're living on the ragged edge, close to the extremities of their capacity to handle the absence of social contact, moving about and, of course, dealing with the grave loss of family and friends.

And before you think this another post aimed at offering a lexicon of helpful, practically messianic tips to get you through another lockdown or whatever else it is you're facing, don't worry, that's not my style. In fact, to do so would not only be crass, I think it's likely to get you shouting at the screen or worse still!

Then again, is there a way to be more at peace or a little less agitated with our extant circumstances?

I'm trying, and whilst the jury's still out on whether I'm fooling myself into another faux regime designed to obscure the reality of my situation, it's become apparent to me how much my mind has overtaken my actions to the point where, if I'm not careful, I'll lose sight of what's really going on.

In case you're wondering, this started off when I decided to sort my books. I've not yet finished the task — I'm a bit short of bookshelf space — but I've managed to take a few genres and pile up my favourite books on the floor, which, if nothing else, has made me realise how lucky I am to have the financial resources and time to buy and read so many. The pile that's speaking to me at the moment is one that (in my head) I've labelled Zen and Buddhism. But actually, I've not yet re-read or read a single book. Instead, I've got this old beat-up looking one on the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path that I'm very slowly working my way through, underlining the most important passages as I go. In case you're not familiar with the Eightfold Path, here's a summary:

Right Understanding

Right Intent

Right Speech

Right Action

Right Livelihood

Right Effort

Right Mindfulness

Right Concentration.

I'm not going to go through each one of them, but what it's made me realise, and sorry if this sounds contrived and antithetical to what I've said about proselytising a message, is that perhaps a disciplined practice centred around the Eightfold Path could be beneficial to my circumstances. I'll be honest though: as someone who is very much on the spectrum of articulating, much like Arthur Schopenhauer, that we don't (we can't) will our will, there's part of me that thinks I may be pulling the wool over my Eightfold-Path-focused eyes. Then again, in noticing where my thoughts are taking me, slowing down my actions and trying to watch my speech, I do feel more settled. 

To be clear, I'm always careful about sharing this type of material — each to his/her own and all that — but perhaps we can help ourselves to appreciate more of what we've got or fall more fully into the moment (e.g. when we're cooking, cleaning or speaking to someone) and not be carried away on a slew of mindless and, at times, random thoughts. 

Perhaps, though, and this is only a thought, the quality of thoughts — even or especially the grotty ones — are a sign that we need to wake up to what's really happening or has happened by dint of this contagion. What do I mean? I mean, perhaps the Gods are whispering to us that all is not well in the way we've lived our lives (not all of us, of course) and far from this being some act of retribution, which I don't think it is (as malevolent as the said Gods can be), it's a way of saying that we need to think of this planet as animate and look after it. I know that sounds simplistic, even perhaps a bit soppy, but then again, leaving to one side the conspiracy (or is that junk?) theories, it can't have escaped your attention that there's a good argument to say that whilst we weren't the genesis for COVID-19, we have to accept some responsibility for the way it's played out. 

Anyhow, my point is this. Perhaps we can or should bring a bit more focus to our lives if only to ameliorate the helplessness, anger and ennui we feel (or at least that's what been pressing down on me) and not be carried away (inter alia) by the mass media, what everyone is saying on the Web and by grounding ourselves in a few simple practices like right action, right concentration and right mindfulness.

Of course, I'll leave you to decide what you feel is most important right now.


— Ju


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