by #HermitRetreat: The Buddha's Smile - Cultivating EquanimityThe liking or not liking of something is itself what creates the self
“What is the harm, you might ask, in liking the color purple or being mildly annoyed by people who are rude? Nothing much. The problem is that desire is a house builder, as the Buddha discovered on the night of his awakening. (“Housebuilder, you have been seen! You will not build another house . . . my mind has reached the destruction of craving.”—Dhammapada 154) Desire constructs the scaffolding of self upon which suffering is then draped. Only a self has desire (unlike rocks and trees), not because it is some spiritual essence unique in nature, but because the liking or not liking of something is itself what creates the self, the person who likes or does not like what is happening in this moment. This then creates the conditions for suffering to arise, for only a self can suffer (rocks and trees do not). We can only be disappointed if we set ourselves apart from what is happening by wanting it to be other than it is.
The crux of the second noble truth is not what you want but that you want. As the Buddha says in Majjhima Nikāya 43, greed and hatred are makers of measurement; they are delimiting and therefore limiting functions. They carve our minds into boxes and compartments, hemming us in with habits, wishes, wants, and needs. Consciousness, which like a luminous mirror is capable of reflecting whatever object it encounters selflessly (and thus naturally), is restricted, distorted, and even perverted by the likes and dislikes of our emotional habits—even those that seem innocuous. Under such circumstances, it is impossible to see things as they really are.
The truth is that we like our preferences and prejudices, we like defining ourselves in terms of what we like and don’t like. It is precisely desire’s entanglement with the sense of self that makes this all so difficult to unravel. Fortunately, there is a relatively easy and accessible way to counter the powerful forces of desire: the cultivation of equanimity. Every moment of mindfulness is also a moment of equanimity. It is not a disengagement from the object of awareness but rather a full and complete engagement with it.
Awareness without wanting is not the same as having no emotion, for equanimity itself is an emotion. If a neutral feeling tone lies at the midpoint between pleasure and pain, equanimity as an emotional response lies midway between liking and not liking, wanting and not wanting, greed and hatred. In the former case there is still a feeling tone, just not one that is obviously pleasant or painful... It may strike many of us as surprising, and even entirely alien, but the Buddhists are pointing to an intensity of emotional response that accepts and even celebrates what is happening without trying to distort it into something else, into something that “I” prefer.” - Andrew Olendzki