The final heart practice in Buddhism is upekkha, or equanimity. Equanimity is the practice of remaining stable in the midst of whatever is occurring. The word upekkha actually means “to look over,” which points to the importance of observation. Equanimity is a quality of seeing things clearly without becoming enveloped in them.
Whether we are in meditation or in daily life, our experience often heavily sways our thoughts and emotions. We get wrapped up in each experience, resting our happiness on outside circumstances. Equanimity may be seen as a practice in letting go, or maybe more accurately in letting be. Equanimity practice may be done either toward ourselves or toward others.
When we practice equanimity with others, we practice letting go of what we want for others. When we do metta practice, we may wish for a person to be happy and at ease. However, practicing metta toward someone will not suddenly make that person happy. Equanimity helps us let go of our wishes for others. One of the classic equanimity phrases is “May all beings be in charge of their own actions.” We practice cultivating stability and peace whether or not others act in the ways we want them to. We may have ideas about what would make someone happy or how they should behave. In equanimity practice, we no longer rest our happiness on whether or not this person does what we think would make them happy.
Practicing equanimity with ourselves is a bit different. We try to cultivate a stable mind, not so heavily affected by what is occurring. Equanimity is also one of the factors of enlightenment, and it’s an important quality in Buddhist teachings. We may cultivate this quality of equanimity by practicing letting go over and over. We can observe what is happening without attaching to it or grasping.