Keep it Neutral

I have a secret confession to make: I am obsessed with getting over 1,000 followers on Instagram.

For the past year I have hovered between 960-991 followers and no matter what I post I just can’t seem to crack that 1,000 mark. I so desperately want to be above that line that I even pitched a story to the editors of this magazine about getting there (#noshame, #thisisnotthatarticle). It doesn’t matter if I’m having a great day, if I see that I’ve lost a follower my day will immediately turn sour. It’s trite and meaningless to most; nevertheless it is a microcosm roller coaster for my ego to ride daily. That might just be me though.

Perhaps more relevant to some of you would be the feeling you get when you master a handstand in yoga without using the wall, and then the feeling you get when you try it again and fall down. Or when you get recognized at work with a promotion. Or when, at a family gathering, a relative starts bragging about their kid’s engagement while you silently refill your wine glass for the third time while staring at the empty space on your ring finger… okay, okay, that just might be me again.

It almost goes without saying that these days in order to navigate the ups and downs of everyday life — and especially to navigate the really heavy ones like the death of a loved one — we need to have some sort of practice. Painful things lead to suffering, and often we’ll tend to hold on to that suffering even when what we really want is to let it go.

What we may not be consciously aware of is how attached we can also get to the good things that happen to us as well — the praise we receive for doing something good, receiving a compliment or a show of affection. It creates joy but it can also create inflated ego, expectation, attachment and maybe even set a new bar from where we judge ourselves. The highs sure feel better than the lows, no one would argue that. Yet there is another place — a middle place — that isn’t that hard to get to once you know where you’re going.

Equanimity has been defined as “to see with patience” or “to be in the middle.” Balanced and unmoved by both success and failure, and unattached to both. It may sound wacky to some. I mean, why shouldn’t we celebrate our successes and achievements and then publish them on every social media outlet for everyone to see? And how can we not be moved by something painful that happens to us, or throws our life off course?

In Buddhism, this equanimity is found through always remaining present through the practice of mindfulness. It’s knowing that there will always be suffering, but also knowing that as long as I remain in the present moment I can move forward from anything as long as I keep a place of balance and solid ground.

In the practice of Kundalini, we call it operating from the Neutral Mind. We are all of three minds: positive, negative and neutral. Each of us is more inclined in one way or another, and will have a tendency to go there automatically as a reaction or a place of decision-making.

The objective is to have a balanced positive and negative mind, and ultimately operate from the neutral mind.

If someone tends to be too negative, they may never experience joy or take chances. If someone is too positive they may never see the reality in certain situations or people.

It’s like only working out your triceps but not your biceps, you’ll never be able to pick anything up and actually hold it. But if you work and develop all the muscles equally, then the arm will function optimally as a whole. You can see all sides of a situation, a person, or an experience and then move forward from a place that isn’t positive or negative.

Along with mindfulness, there are many meditations designed specifically to strengthen the neutral mind that require very little effort. Even something as simple as stopping, watching your breath, coming to your senses, asking yourself: What do I feel in this moment? What can I see? What do I smell?

We will begin to see results when we dedicate ourselves to these practices everyday. Maybe by having a little more patience in traffic, a little less disappointment when someone cancels plans, or a little less attachment to a good date.

Still, knowing all of this, we must remember we are human and should not judge each other, or ourselves, for having feelings. Who amongst us hasn’t lost their temper at the wrong time or succumbed to an inflated ego when praised for one’s work or guidance looks or ‘likes.’ Maybe the equanimity comes with not only striving to be more neutral minded with others, but also to see ourselves with more patience.

That being said, follow me on Instagram @lipmich and help me reach my goal so I can get a little more equanimity — and sleep in.

*Also try this simple Kundalini meditation for 11 minutes a day for 40 days and see what changes!

**Artwork by: James Ormiston.

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