Last week’s Reflections was a very intense thing, both to write and to read, by all accounts. Some people called it “bad ass,” others couldn’t finish reading it (totally okay), and some people probably thought it was unnecessary or alarmist or whatever, but they didn’t say anything to me, so I don’t know! And that’s fine.
Today I want to talk about the practices of equanimity and neutrality.
Let’s take equanimity first. Equanimity is often a good state to be in when you have important decisions to make. It may be brought on by breathing down into the gravity of the Earth that always holds us and embraces us more reliably than anything else ever can. It may be brought on by long, slow exhalations that happen while your feet are on the floor or folded beneath you. It may be brought on by the application of floracita (Florida water) or other “brightening” scents, especially when you put them on your head. It can also come after a really good cry.
Equanimity is an even-tempered state, a centered state. Don’t mistake me –- equanimity doesn’t mean that you need to deny your feelings. Note, I said it can come after a good cry with lots of good breathing. It does, though, mean that you may recognize your feelings, where they’re coming from, and not having them drive the bus.
There are times and places when outrage is called for. When letting grief overtake us is okay and more than okay. When we dance in the streets with euphoria and fall on our knees at the beauty of the moon.
Those are not, however, the places from which to make considered opinions. They have their places, for sure. They provide us information; they are part of living a fully human, fully embodied experience; they are real, important, and not something I would EVER tell you to turn away from.
Equanimity is just another state. And it is a valuable one. It is … how can I say this? Trustworthy? It allows us to access what I was once taught to call, The Watcher, the one who is behind the feelings and sees them and lets them happen and let them move through us. And is conscious.
Equanimity can be present with emotions. It need not be detached from anything. It can still be connected with All That Is. It can still contain multitudes.
I have no big beefs with equanimity.
But let’s talk about neutrality.
You can probably see this coming. Neutrality can go to hell. Neutrality is more often the state of “not choosing sides,” than equanimity is, which is to say that neutrality chooses the way things are, the status quo, whatever is happening now.
This—neutrality—is especially damaging when it comes to politics. And it is particularly odious when the status quo includes children sitting in filth in cages. It is absolutely noxious when Fascism is emboldened, when trans women of color are murdered on the street in broad daylight, when citizens of the United States in Puerto Rico are without power or clean water for months and supplies lie stockpiled away from them to enrich the rich, when the climate is changing so fast that storm after storm batters the world and islands disappear underwater, when the Proud Boys gang is allowed to assault people in the streets of my city, when corporations corrupt politics beyond recognition, when, when, when…
Neutrality can be awfully close to apathy, it seems to me.
You needn’t be an extrovert to avoid neutrality. You needn’t cry out or stand out or even “be out,” at least not yet.
You needn’t be thrown off-center by outrage at every moment, enervated by the force of your anger.
You needn’t allow yourself to drown in tears of grief, weakened and left raw and mewling in the corners of your life for months at a time.
You needn’t lock your body to the doors of ICE HQ. Or even go downtown and join the vigils and hold candles. You might do these things. You might go to be a witness to evil. You might also tightly curate your intake of media so that you can cultivate equanimity.
But don’t be neutral, my friends. Even if you don’t know what to do. Even if you’re not sure you can do anything of value – which is not true, but still – you can allow your heart to come away from neutrality.
Neutrality says that whatever is happening doesn’t affect me. Neutrality says, lock up your wealth here, and it will be protected. Neutrality says that the individual—by which we almost always mean the white, wealthy, ruling individual—is the most important “community” there is. Neutrality says that we must avoid taking a stand to keep ourselves from being thrown off-center.
But see above. Equanimity does not demand neutrality.
Sure, let us find peace within ourselves, especially when we’re discerning important choices. Absolutely, let us remain grounded, aware of Earth’s constant gifts. Definitely, let us cultivate equilibrium, equanimity.
But I pray that none of us be neutral.
Not when the chips are down and people are dying. Please don’t choose the status quo. It is the culture of injury, oppression, and death.
And yet flowers bloom. The lilac I see through my window will bring its gorgeous fragrance to life in just a couple of months. I love my wife and she loves me back. My nails are a beautiful fuchsia. I get to write with beautiful fountain pens. I try to bring spirituality and honesty into the center of my own and others’ lives.
Every day, our hearts beat. Every day, the trillions of bacteria who make up the colonies we are for them (try that on for size!) do their little magical jobs that keep us alive.
Every day, poets put pen to paper. Every day, painters look slow and paint fast. Every day, singers open up their faces and sing. Every day, people are moved to dance, hear the rhythm of the Universe, the Music of the Spheres, and move their bodies.
There is so much lovely in the world, and it can be a balm to our grief, a reminder of why we are outraged and also a calming influence on that outrage.
May we work for the beautiful, the good, the true. May we rest our muscles into the deep breath. May we reject neutrality. May we resist.
I love you. You are part of the beauty I’m talking about, and part of what I’m fighting for. Let’s be in this together.