Where are Your Feet?

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

Guest Blogger, Carrie Jenkins, again shares her insights and wisdom she has gleaned from living a life of mindfulness. Carrie’s words always resonate deeply with me and I am grateful for her willingness to share. Carrie is also a gifted photographer and you can view some of her work here.

As we begin a new year, it seems natural to reflect on the year behind us. What is interesting to me is that as part of the human condition, we tend to first recall the regrets, the perceived failures, missed opportunities…those things for which we may wish we could have a “do over.” Don’t get me wrong, a certain amount of self-reflection and evaluating of past choices is an important part of growth. But bringing negative feelings forward into the current year over past situations that we can no longer change does not launch us into the new year on the right foot (pun intended). And in a world where we are often told to be humble and not brag, while also being bombarded with images of social media “influencers” posting daily how wonderful they are – in an airbrushed, larger than life, unattainable standards way – we can see why we wouldn’t immediately jump to compiling the list of things we are proud of from the past year. Add that to living in a society that loves to connect via tales of woe and despair, it is understandable that prior to considering our successes, we would also lament over the state of our country, the ongoing pandemic, the increasing suffering in world, how so-and-so wronged us, how “they” are doing it wrong… believe me, I am just as conditioned as the next person and find my thoughts when reflecting or talking with another person wandering there first.

The difference for me in the past year is I was often able to pause and to change the dialog, both in my head and in conversation with those around me. A friend recently shared that equanimity (in Pali, upekkha) is a focus for her this year, and it was a driving principle in my life throughout 2021. Equanimity can seem tricky because people assume detachment is equivalent to indifference or being uncaring.

“It is evenness of mind, unshakeable freedom of mind, a state of inner equipoise that cannot be upset by gain and loss, honor and dishonor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. Upekkha is freedom from all points of self-reference; it is indifference only to the demands of the ego-self with its craving for pleasure and position, not to the well-being of one’s fellow human beings.” – Bhikkhu Bodhi

Gil Fronsdal says the Buddha described upekkha as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.”

Thich Nhat Hanh says that the Sanskrit word upeksha means “equanimity, nonattachment, nondiscrimination, even-mindedness, or letting go. Upa means ‘over,’ and iksh means ‘to look.’ You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other.”

As an emotional person whose inner serenity was violently at the whim of the external forces surrounding me (real or perceived) for most of my life, I was so quick to judge something as good or bad. Excessively self-focused, to be worried what someone thought about me, stressed about how I had messed up or anxious about how something may or may not work out. I lived in fear that it hadn’t been enough, wouldn’t be enough in the future, or wasn’t enough right now. Embracing equanimity helped me to release much of that turbulence and just BE. To trust I did the best I could, to be present and give my best in the moment, and trust that I will do my best in the future and be given all the resources I need to deal with whatever future problems may arise. Not to say I didn’t evaluate my behavior and assure I hadn’t wronged anyone or acted with dubious motives. And it doesn’t mean I didn’t feel anxious or sad or excited…it just means now I am usually not overwhelmed or paralyzed by those feelings. I can recognize them, and if they feel overwhelming, put them in perspective and bring it back to the NOW.

When someone is struggling, one of my favorite things to ask is, “Where are your feet?” Because unless you are being held at gunpoint at the ATM I joke, chances are you are probably ok, right now, in this minute. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have feelings or challenging times. It means we have a choice of how much power we give those feelings or circumstances over our inner serenity. It is my experience that my worse fears have never come true. Years ago I read something to the affect that your wildest dreams are just as likely as your worst fears, so why don’t we spend more time thinking about those? This brings us back to our inclination as humans to focus on the negative. Often quoted, and unfalteringly true, “Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.”

As we start the new year, it is the perfect time to consider how we want to view our life, and if necessary, change our perspective. The beautiful thing is you can, at any time, several times a day (or minute should the need arise). Equanimity has helped me to look back at the past year more gently and without judgment. And it helps me to look into the new year gently and without expectation. Which is not to say I don’t have hopes or plans or goals. I certainly do. And it helps to be in today gently, present in my current task, trusting that I will well meet the next as it arises. For me equanimity is freedom, and I hope you will remember to be where your feet are and find some for yourself in this coming year loves.


Other post by Carrie – Accepting a Less Than Perfect Life

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *