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September 15th, 2016

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)


People sometimes consider that equanimity (or some tool to cultivate it, like meditation) is synonymous with boredom: in the absence of ups and downs, is life still worth living?

It's a classic mistake: the cessation of 'reactivity' isn't synonymous with the absence of stimulus! The ability to take a step back (to reflect, to ponder, to avoid rushing to conclusions, to consider the context before offering a —constructive— response, etc.) doesn't imply that nothing happens, nor that no engagement is called for.

Non-reactivity doesn't imply that "every moment is exactly the same."
However, even if there are "less pleasurable" moments, they just don't need to become "hell" in absolute terms!
In relative terms, they might constitute "hell"; however, they would become "hell" only if one sets a reference, a point of comparison (to define "below this, it's hell").
Now think about heat: there's no such thing as anti-heat. What we call "colder" is simply less heat, and what we usually call "cold" is simply defined relative to what's comfortable for our body. But any temperature is positive: above the absolute zero Kelvin (−273.15°C, −459.67°F). Similarly, you can always define an experience as "bliss" ("I'm still alive after such car crash? wow! bliss!") or "hell" ("I don't have the latest gadget? hell!"); this has little to do with the absolute of the experience, which (like temperature) always exists above the "zero" of experience. There's no more anti-experience than there is anti-heat: two experiences may seem to 'cancel' one another, but the result simply is itself another experience (like 'hot' and 'cold' together give rise to 'tepid', not to 'nothing').

Liberation from mental habits, from views, from prejudices and preconceptions, allows for freedom, for choice; such a Liberation is the suspension of 'automatic' reactions.
And when you're free to choose the definition you use at any point in time, in relation to the current context, you no longer need to turn "less pleasurable" moments into "hell".
Thanks to mental flexibility, thanks to the ability to respond without prejudices to the situation at hand, you can cease unsatisfactoriness, you can cease dukkha.
This doesn't imply that everything tastes the same, and this doesn't imply 'boredom' (as in "not finding anything worthy of your attention"). This doesn't imply passivity either.