Yo, this is not a book review but a reading note to fixate thoughts, with pg’s "keeping a trace of previous brain compilations" mindset, and in Sivers’ style of compressing knowledge into directives.

I have a few of these notes, or go back to the homepage.

10 day Vipassana course ★★★★★ Read in October 2017

Vipassana

« Blaise Pascal famously claimed that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room, alone”. And we are not able to do it, either. Vipassana is the rather upsetting path toward learning to be able to sit quietly in a room, alone. And it's very simple, but not at all easy. » – HNer javajosh.

TL;DR: it was as difficult as worthwhile, and taught me 1. a lot about myself, 2. some useful skills and discipline. For more, read the rest.


In October 2017, I did a 10 day Vipassanā meditation retreat at the Suttama centre of Montebello, Québec. I went to deepen a nascent meditation practice, and to dig some Buddhism bits. Wikipedia does a good job at summing up the main promise:

Vipassanā-meditation uses mindfulness of breathing, combined with the contemplation of impermanence, to gain insight into the true nature of this reality. All phenomena are investigated, and concluded to be painful and unsubstantial, without an immortal entity or self-view, and in its ever-changing and impermanent nature. [...]

By observing the breath, one becomes aware of the perpetual changes involved in breathing, and the arising and passing away of mindfulness. One can also be aware of and gain insight into impermanence through the observation of bodily sensations and their nature of arising and passing away.

So, although not a book, I'm archiving here my experience of the course as a book note because, like a book, it's an experience whose absorption depends a lot on the absorber's context and mind state, and will be "compiled differently" should I want to try it again in the future (I might, first as a cooking servant). I have not read Goenka's Art of living yet.

Starting point: had been practicing meditation for one year, with daily 20 min. sessions on mindful respiration/Ānāpāna app Headspace, and considered myself ripe for more. Three friends had tried Vipassana retreats and enjoyed the experience, so I gave it a try. For those unfamiliar, be sure to skim the Wikipedia article, and here are course basics as summed up by Vipassana for hackers:

During the course you are not permitted books, phones, talking, looking people in the eye, touching, making sounds, snacks, music, or writing.

Put more succinctly, your activities will include: eat, sleep, poop, bath, meditate.

That's it.

Meditation will consume approximately 10 to 11 hours per day.

Here's wut I learned:

I'm terrible at sitting

Days 1→4 were okay as I was very permissive with stretching regularly, but the Adhiṭṭhāna sessions (one hour of uninterrupted meditation, without moving hands or legs) starting at day 4 grew painful over days 5→7. Two pains intertwined:

  1. "Normal" Adhiṭṭhāna pain. First sessions do hurt a lot in the legs (especially the knees), but the next ones get progressively bearable. At days 4 and 5 (before the below tension started kicking in), got into states of totally accepting this pain, which at times appeared reduced to heat. Quite an experience.
  2. Extreme tension in the back and neck due to failing to find a balanced & relaxed sitting position, causing me to compensate muscularly, whiiich works for five minutes but scales terribly to repeated one hour sessions 😄. Ended up with my left side blocked, and a shaking left thigh. Switched to sitting on a chair the morning of day 8.

I guess I'll never know if 2. was just bad technique and lacking knowledge of my body, or a manifestation of my own stress and my resistance to pain bringing more stress. Both, I think, and 2. made me consider my sensitivity to cold might follow the same path: it's cold → I notice it and keep mumbling to myself how cold it is → it's even colder. (Re-)trying some yoga might be a good addition.

Revealing your good, bad, and ugly

The good:

  • Starting internalizing through physical experience this "things changes" motto you'd been repeating for years, but kept stumbling upon when facing loss, rejection, failure.
  • Being hit by the simplicity of Goenka's equanimous experiencing:

    "Oh: {anger, sadness, depression, whatever}. A sensation, and like all sensations, with a start and an end. Let me see how long it lasts."

Then I won't even qualify the bad as such, because it feels good to see ugly so close and clearly, look at its face, and know you'll remember it for quite some time. But the combination of:

  • Doing only one thing all day long, rewiring you to define yourself through it.
  • Lack of social exhaust (except for talking to the teacher, who –rightfully– made a point to never simply answer the question 🙂).

... means the slightest hitch (like my physical difficulties above, or a session you considered disappointing) makes you fall hardhard emotionally. Back to work, colleagues ask me if my meditation thingie was relaxing. Ha; was not, I reached levels of stress and anxiety never experienced before.

For me, that was feeling like a failure, and anger about being unable to let go (anger about anger! Achievement unlocked! We Need To Go Deeper™), for you it will be something else and alrighty let's continue the chat with our respective shrinks.

Resistance; learning (and failing) to let go

The feeling of failure engendered by my sitting difficulties made days 7→9 particularly stressful and agitated. Being aware of the resistance (as complete opposite to the equanimity Goenka spent his time explaining), feeling its presence, but at the sametime judging myself unbearably incapable / slow at letting it go.

I spent most of my meditation time during these days instead walking the adjacent forest path, not meditating but just feeling the fresh air, calming down and trying to get back to simple anapana, and later on vipassana. Got there for a few moments at days 9 and 10, during which I was able again to do some meditation.

Buddhism 101

⚠️ Contains mistakes & approximations, I'm new here. Feedback welcome.

I had been getting interested in Buddhism for a few years but had until then mostly failed to grasp it, probably due to looking at overly-philosophical books. Contrarily, the enthusiasm and playfulness of Goenka's evening talks goes down like a treat (more on the risks behind that later). My current self enjoys:

  • The nimbleness of its sikkhā {morality, mind, wisdom} core.
  • Lack of forgive-my-sins and ticket to heaven/hell nonsense.
  • The fact that the central object (Buddha) is no transcendental god, but a mere human with a name, respected for his way to the top (insert snark about hacker meritocracy complex & imposter's syndrome). I enjoyed how Goenka laughs at attempts to ponder up-in-the-sky "what's god" questions with (reformulation mine) "forget about that, let humans deal with human matters, and gods with gods matters".

I was amazed and mildly worried by the amount of dedicated vocabulary. Amazed these practices were so important to that culture for it to need those words, and worried after all it's jargon that obfuscates and mythologizes. –A fellow student remarked a linguist would surely have things to say about the density of our own occidental lexical field around speed, control, productivity–. Important pieces:

  • Anicca / Impermanence, the "assertion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is 'transient, evanescent, inconstant'". Saṃsāra means "wandering" or "world", with the connotation of cyclic, circuitous change.
  • Saṅkhāra, mental "dispositions", formed as a result of volition and becoming causes for the arising of future volitional actions.
  • Dharma, the, it's complicated, just read the wiki page.
  • Upekkhā / equanimity, "a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause one to lose the balance of their mind".
    That one troubled me quite a bit; I remained perplexed Goenka talk after Goenka talk by this insistence to distance from both negative emotions (to avoid generating aversion) and positive ones (to avoid generating craving). I couldn't feel the nuance that would differentiate the notion from apathy / indifference.

On concentration and these weird constraints

The course starts with Goenka asking us students to "suspend judgment, and give a fair trial to the technique". And he does well, because the list of restrictions during the course is long:

  • No talking
  • No looking at other students in the eyes
  • No exercising
  • No reading, writing, cellphones
  • No sex. To help: full segregation of men and women
  • Adhiṭṭhāna (mentioned above, long meditation sessions without moving)

Goenka explains the rationale for these frequently, but it's when the talking ban is lifted on day 10 that it becomes crystal clear: you cannot do a good job at meditation with students chatter in mind, your mind races to what you said and how it was perceived and this person's judgment and that person's counter-argument. And you came to meditate, right?

Thus, the list above. These restrictions are not arbitrary and not punishments, they're here to help, as a framework to let you focus on your meditation.

Also, although uninterrupted Ānāpāna (focusing on respiration) was easy, I found it hard to stay focused on the "sequentially examining body parts" Vipassana technique. The best metaphor I found is that for me it felt like turning pages a comic book with only the cartoon boxes (no drawings, no text): I knew these boxes were of different shapes and sizes and could recognize them as such (I could feel sensations, even occasionally some "subtle" ones in Dhamma-speak), but it doesn't change the fact that I couldn't find an interest in them; feels like it was too "abstract" to my mind, which quickly wandered to anything else.

On trust, and "sect" vs. "cult"

It was difficult for the analytical being I am to maintain a trustful outlook on Goenka's talks, for a number of reasons:

  • Repetition, making you feel manipulated/indoctrinated scratch that, repetition is part of every teachers toolbox. It's what was repeated that worried me, see below.
  • Presentation of broad empirical observations as "Law of nature".
  • Insistence that certain technique rituals are not sectarian rituals (e.g. thanking with Sadu, sadu, sadu at the end of each meditation). A cat remains a cat even if I pretend it's a conch; explaining the reason for a ritual is fine, why bend the truth so much and insist it's not a ritual?
  • Equating experience to scientific observation. (No, Buddha experiencing matter vibration is not equal in power to reliably measuring it as 1022Hz).
    • A fellow student (thanks Barak) adds the example of Hindu mythology having preached we live on the back of a giant turtle, because that had been similarly "experienced" as "truth".
  • The density of the final Goenka talks in "self-replicating material": insisting on the importance of volunteering, of sharing the good news to others, etc.
  • The resurrection thing, but that one is anecdotal, I'm willing to accept it as 1. god's business, and 2. an artifact of the times Buddhism was born in.

All these made me wonder how I'd answer to someone saying Vipassanā is no better or worse than <insert harmless spiritual organization with a value set you despise>. Vipassanā is clearly not a cult (in French, a harmful secte, with its legal definition of "organization abusing the vulnerability of targets, especially children and distressed persons"), it earnestly wants to teach you a few useful skills, doesn't harm, doesn't extort money, and I found it (as organization and through its volunteers) remarkable in goodwill, morality, rationality, honesty, openness. But yes it's a sect as "organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and principles". A good reminder to keep questioning the organizations and systems we work/live in (read DFW's This is water), e.g. the private company and neoliberalism.

Nothing very new here, perhaps what shocked me the most is the anti-religion atheist bastard I am started finding a sect to his liking.

Around the web

Finishing this note, I felt a need to go peek at my little corner of the interwebs and see what other like-minded people found out. Googling HN/vipassana and github/vipassana,

  • Deobald's Vipassana for hackers (direct link to PDF, 3.4MB) is 👍👍👍 excellent.
  • Micael Widell's - My first 10 day Vipassana retreat covers lots of common themes, quoting a bit that rings true:

    It is funny how the mind adapts to life at the Vipassana center. I didn't have any social connections at all, since it was impossible to communicate with the outside world, nor with any of the students. Still my mind seems to have an innate need to identify, map up and analyze the personalities around me and how I relate to them.

    My mind started imagining all the other student's personalities. Some of them I started to like, and some of them I disliked. [...]

    On the tenth day we are allowed to speak again. According to Goenka it is so that we can get accustomed to normal life again before getting thrown back into reality. It was exhilarating, finally being able to talk to all the people around me.

    I learned how my prejudices about all the other student's personalities were in almost all cases totally wrong. Some of the people my mind had decided to dislike during the quiet days were often the people I had a lot in common with and that I ended up liking, and vice versa.

  • On accepting Buddhism as a religion,
    • bobsgame talks cults:

      Cults are everywhere, most people just don't realize it. Some are destructive, most aren't. I believe that Vipassana is not destructive and it at least tries to be helpful and give people stronger coping skills.

    • shockzzz says:

      I can't stand people who say Buddhism is not a religion. In many, many, MANY ways Christianity is as much a philosophy as Buddhism is. People also don't realize that Buddhism in the West is specifically catered to Westerners who are sick of the dogma of the Abrahamic religions. Ironically, Buddhism is filled with the same dogma, but it's hidden in the West until you buy into it. I can't imagine it's entirely different from how Christian missionaries approach developing countries.

    • To which paolomaffei answers:

      As for it being a religion, well yes it is, however it is not a theistic religion that explicitly asks you to believe in a vengeful, retributing god. [...] It only becomes a "religion" when one believes that one too, could be like the Buddha, becoming something that's much higher than what one is right now. One doesn't have to believe this bit however, one could very well follow the Buddha's teachings (and meditation, which is an integral part of) just to become a happier human being.

    • A 👍👍👍 shout out from drzaiusapelord about our westerners dismissive-ness about the spiritual parts:

      Well, its a religious practice. This is like joining a Catholic choir and being surprised all the songs are about Jesus, and all the talk of melodies and harmony take a backseat to devotion.

      As a meditator, I think this push to strip it down and reduce it to just a "stress remover" is counter-productive and will end in situations like yours where you feel the "anti-scientific" (whatever that means) aspects attacked you. The reality here is that meditators, especially teachers, can't divorce the emotional, spiritual, ethical, and even supernatural parts of their practice for Western consumers who just want a "fix me" weekend to go back to their busy, complex, and stressful lives. The larger point is to fix/change yourself so you don't constantly need "recharge" retreats.

      I think there's been this failed experiment in the last 100 years to strip people of spirituality either by force (Communism) or by shame (Western Determinism/Materialism). As an lower-case atheist and non-religious person, I find it all incredible bleak and have been, over the years, working my way closer to the "softer" parts of Buddhism. I'm pretty much an agnostic with maybe some weak spiritual views now and its a good place to be. I don't think you can really expect Buddhists to strip Buddhism from meditation. They find too much value in it the same way I do. Secular/scientific "stress busting" techniques don't work compared to holistic life changes that yes include weird spiritual stuff and counter-modern ideas like living for the moment/experience and not giving into attachment, materialism, emotions, etc. We tried just deep breathing, we tried every psychological fad, we tried drugs, etc. They just don't seem to work very well compared to a serious change in lifestyle as described by Buddhism or some school of mediation/Eastern thought.

      I see people stuck on endless skinner boxes on ipads and consoles. I see people fighting and killing themselves at shitty, stressful jobs (yours truly included), etc. I see conflict all the time and the inevitable race to a Nash equilibrium that makes everyone unhappy. Samasara looks real to me, even if you interpret it as a metaphor. I don't think it's cultish to point out alternatives to the Western idea of "being productive," or to add some "woo." Frankly, I'm not convinced some "woo" isn't real. No, I'm not sending money to Sylvia Brown, but I won't be a dismissive asshole when people talk about reincarnation, or how they think Vipassana or Kundalini brought them close to some important spiritual experience, etc. Funny how we dismiss these experiences, but ask any geek about LSD and he'll ramble one for hours how its pretty much spiritualism in a can and everyone nods in lockstep. Perhaps we're a little too dismissive of the soft parts of Buddhism in the West.

  • On giving some slack to Buddhism in its historical Hindu context,
    • teddyh clarifies what I was hinting at with reincarnation:

      Buddhism can not be accurately understood by simply looking at the whole of Buddhism and its teachings. Buddhism was created in a society where Hinduism was the norm, and it is the changes (the “diff”, if you will) which Buddhism introduced which are the interesting bits. What we may see as strange and religious will make more sense if you compare it to what Hinduism had and what the change which Buddhism introduced was trying to accomplish.

      It would be interesting to “rebase” Buddhism on western culture, but I can’t think of anything which would fit this description. [...]

      For example, many people believe that Buddhism teaches reincarnation. But Hinduism also has reincarnation, and Buddhism simply chose to alter the concept, and it is this alteration which is the interesting bit. Buddhism can only be properly understood as a reaction to Hinduism, not by coming to it fresh and reading about the eightfold path or whatever – that way it will only come across as weird.

    • , and javajosh adds more, in a frank and humorous tone:

      I have (strong) disagreements with the discourses - not just the kalapas thing, but the reference to higher- and lower existences, not to mention the dogma of rebirth. It's mentioned in passing, but it contradicts earlier claims of "non-sectarianism". In fact, it left such a bad taste in my mouth I left my first course (5th night). I went back and almost left again, but mastered my anger. The third time I was less angry. Now I just laugh - the Buddha (and Goenka) are just products of their time, communicating as best they can with the tools they have. The core observations, the core practice, doesn't require any of it.

  • On physical pain and annoyances,
    • abledon puts in perspective the painful sitting:

      It's also quite dangerous if you haven't taken physical preparations beforehand. To sit on the floor 6-8 hours a day with a weak westernized body, used to sitting in a chair, is dangerous. If your not super fit and have great core strength, the muscles around your spine simply can't hold you for that long and you collapse into the skeleton, which can lead to injury. Traditionally, Vipassana would have rigorous physical training before the meditation, now in the westernized setting, we just go from sitting at desk 8 hrs a day for decades, to sitting on the cushion.

      Furthermore, the endocrine system can get really messed up when you sit for that long over a number of period of days. When the body doesn't move, things stagnate and cause problems.

    • A chronological take from Jordan Lejuwaan on the retreat, with a frustration I experienced too. A good example of the kind of little annoyance that, given you become "defined" by your meditation and in absence of talk escape hatch, starts driving you mad 🙂:

      During the morning meditation session my mouth was very full of saliva for some reason, and I kept having to swallow.

      This soon developed into a downward spiral of trying NOT to swallow, which of course put more saliva into my mouth.

      Then I started to worry whether my constant swallowing was bothering my meditating neighbors. I heard them begin to swallow after I do. Am I contaminating the whole group? It’s honestly difficult to remember a time when I’ve felt more miserable.

      I go to speak with the instructor during lunch. He laughs and says ‘Yeah… that can happen.’ He says the issue is actually the perfect teacher for Vipassana. I should remain equanimous with my swallowing just as I am supposed to be okay with any other sensation.

      I mentally repeat to myself that swallowing is fine a 100 different ways during the remaining meditations that day. Nothing helps. I’m swallowing roughly twice a minute. Sometimes 4-5 times in quick succession.

      Even worse, I’m still swallowing as I’m falling asleep. I’m not thinking about it anymore, so maybe it’s just a physiological pattern at this point. Dear god I hope sleep fixes everything.

  • On revealing ugly bits, HN has a slew of stories (e.g. 1, 2) of Vipassana retreats triggering serious mental health breakouts. So, in case that wasn't already clear enough: warning, it's an intense experience, be reasonably okay if you go.
  • Same article, on coming back, or not:

    Still, everyone had a hard time. One guy is on his 8th Vipassana and says it never gets easier. Different issues arise each time. That’s why he keeps coming back each year. “Gotta keep doing the hard work.” [...]

    [Coming back to me,] I’m glad I did it, but for the reasons stated above, I wouldn’t do it again. Instead I’d like to try a meditation retreat that allows you to speak, journal, do yoga, and choose your own meditation technique.

    I am ECSTATIC to be back home. I’m overjoyed to see my girlfriend. Music sounds absolutely amazing. Life is good.

    I’ve heard many people say it’s a huge shock to go back to the real world after a Vipassana. Too many lights and sounds. But I found it to be easy, and even enjoyable.

  • HNer DenisM carves a good definition of Saṅkhāra, and Vipassana in general:

    An experience gets memorized based on its emotional strength, so, for example, a strong negative experience (a trauma) will get memorized quite well. Later on, in a sort-of realed situation one gets to recall and relive such stored experience - the brain sort of "believes" it's important to remember. If the re-living is also strongly emotional, the memory gets "hardened", but if the reliving is less emotional the memory gets "softened".

    As you go through life, most negative experiences gets softer and softer with each recall until each one disappears altogether for lack of emotional response, and thus subjective importance. However, a small number of such memories become immortal - each re-living of one such memory is as emotionally strong as the previous one, and so the memory of the pain never weakens. Such stored memory is called Saṅkhāra. The problem with carrying around too many Saṅkhāras is that eventually any event in your life brings back a negative memory from the past, so you spend your life reacting to something that happened long time ago and bears only superficial resemblance to the present situation.

    The immediate purpose of the Vipassana meditation is to learn the ability to direct your attention where you want it to go, not where the pain pulls you, to learn dispassionate observation of your own suffering. By learning to ignore an itch on your nose, you also learn to ignore an itch in your soul. The less emotional response you generate, the softer the memory becomes, until it evaporates altogether. When completely through (a multi-year process), you only react to the present situation, not to any ghosts of the past.

  • HNer up_and_up nuances the difficulty of Vipassana practice:

    Vipassana is a pretty austere form of meditation. You are directly confronting the mind with little outside aid or warmup. Other forms of meditation leverage breathing techniques, concentration techniques and other practices that gradually bring the mind into submission, making the no-thought part somewhat more easy to achieve.

  • About the false expectations most people have of meditation (as being a. relaxing, b. a way to contemplate and reflect on your life),
    • HNer programnature says:

      Vipassana is not about helping you deal with your psychological issues at the level of content. Its not a therapist-substitute. In fact it will often make matters (temporarily) worse, if you actually follow the instructions and do the practice.

      Spending your meditation time pondering your "issues" is the biggest rookie mistake you can make. People can do this for years, and never get anywhere in their practice.

      If you want to spend some time alone and contemplate your life, thats great and quite possibly useful, but don't call it Vipassana.

    • , to which dpnewman adds:

      Practically, the whole notion of "intellect figuring out and resolving issues" seems now a completely misguided process. Returning to the state of calm fertilizes better thought which crowds out the worries. Worry process becomes reduced and unmasked when it arises. The whole physical reaction cycle different: awareness that how we feel (and happiness) is in our bodies. We know the value of physical exercise; this is similar to a rigorous training that just starts doing what it's advertised to do.

      [...] but let me clarify: book learning is awesome! When I say "resolving issues", I mean purely the personal, subjective, 'worrisome' kind. The endless spinning narratives we struggle within, the attachment to solving these issues through out-thinking the anxiety.

  • On equanimity vs. apathy/indifference,
    • sridca critiques the emotional dissociation preached by Vipassana, and links to What is the difference between Actualism and Vipassana?

      I did three retreats, and my experience is that Vipassana –and meditation practices in general– induces extreme forms of dissociation, and as such not a reliable to way to deal with emotions in the real world.

      A Vipassana meditator dissociates from their emotions while identifying with the physical sensations (whereas what is generally called as the ego/soul/self is, at core, the emotions themselves). Retreats acutely develop this process, but the effects are felt throughout one's daily life. [...]

      While dissociation is one way to cope with emotions, it is not a reliable to way to deal with them in the real world. [...] As the emotions are still in place, when push comes to shove the distanced ego will rear its ugly head again and again (hence unreliable).

      There is more to the human condition than the ego, and this is what Satya Narayan Goenka doesn't get. He is essentially promoting an extreme form of everyday psychological dissociation.

    • dhammawheler Nibbida quotes Nyanaponika Thera's Four Sublime States:

      Love [i.e. metta] imparts to equanimity its selflessness, its boundless nature and even its fervor. For fervor, too, transformed and controlled, is part of perfect equanimity, strengthening its power of keen penetration and wise restraint. [...]

      Compassion guards equanimity from falling into a cold indifference, and keeps it from indolent or selfish isolation. Until equanimity has reached perfection, compassion urges it to enter again and again the battle of the world, in order to be able to stand the test, by hardening and strengthening itself.

      Sympathetic joy gives to equanimity the mild serenity that softens its stern appearance. It is the divine smile on the face of the Enlightened One, a smile that persists in spite of his deep knowledge of the world's suffering, a smile that gives solace and hope, fearlessness and confidence: "Wide open are the doors to deliverance," thus it speaks. [...]

      Equanimity rooted in insight is the guiding and restraining power for the other three sublime states. It points out to them the direction they have to take, and sees to it that this direction is followed. Equanimity guards love and compassion from being dissipated in vain quests and from going astray in the labyrinths of uncontrolled emotion. Equanimity, being a vigilant self-control for the sake of the final goal, does not allow sympathetic joy to rest content with humble results, forgetting the real aims we have to strive for.

      Equanimity, which means "even-mindedness," gives to love an even, unchanging firmness and loyalty. It endows it with the great virtue of patience. Equanimity furnishes compassion with an even, unwavering courage and fearlessness, enabling it to face the awesome abyss of misery and despair which confront boundless compassion again and again. To the active side of compassion, equanimity is the calm and firm hand led by wisdom — indispensable to those who want to practice the difficult art of helping others. And here again equanimity means patience, the patient devotion to the work of compassion.

      In these and other ways equanimity may be said to be the crown and culmination of the other three sublime states. The first three, if unconnected with equanimity and insight, may dwindle away due to the lack of a stabilizing factor. Isolated virtues, if unsupported by other qualities which give them either the needed firmness or pliancy, often deteriorate into their own characteristic defects. For instance, loving-kindness, without energy and insight, may easily decline to a mere sentimental goodness of weak and unreliable nature. Moreover, such isolated virtues may often carry us in a direction contrary to our original aims and contrary to the welfare of others, too. It is the firm and balanced character of a person that knits isolated virtues into an organic and harmonious whole, within which the single qualities exhibit their best manifestations and avoid the pitfalls of their respective weaknesses. And this is the very function of equanimity, the way it contributes to an ideal relationship between all four sublime states.

      Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight. But in its perfection and unshakable nature equanimity is not dull, heartless and frigid. Its perfection is not due to an emotional "emptiness," but to a "fullness" of understanding, to its being complete in itself. Its unshakable nature is not the immovability of a dead, cold stone, but the manifestation of the highest strength.

Comments and feedback welcome @ronjouch or by email.