Recently, my husband’s job of twenty-eight years ended. The textbook “what next?” question arose as we discussed our 15-20 more working years. I am grateful for his service to our family and work ethic. And, in this new climate, complete with a looming severance pay end date, I realize six months goes by fast–the need to plan quickly is crystal clear as questions and feelings of uncertainty come up daily.
I’ve been thinking about how to make the most of the precious, short summer season in Seattle as the end of his severance in October approaches. I giggle as I type this question, realizing how planning the remaining weeks of summer may seem the least of our worries; perhaps I should be thinking more long term. But in my mind, these usually sunny and gorgeous ten weeks in otherwise rainy Seattle must be enjoyed.
As I study the ease some seem to have in their “go-with-the-flow/something-will-come-along” attitude, I open up my minimalist toolbox, and I realize not going away on a big vacation in a given year is really a First World problem.
So I realize it’s time to let this one go and let the summer unfold organically. It’s time to practice Upeksha toward my spouse. Upeksha is the fourth element (attitude) of true love according to Buddhist spirituality–even though that means saying goodbye to coconut sunblock, carefree sundresses, and new snorkel gear.
For this year, for our family, we can enjoy good, cheap fun as a top priority for July and August, and we can do this with equanimity, calmness, and grace.
But how exactly do Upeksha and its component of letting go play out in the broader parts of my relationship with my Self and with my life partner? Mainly, the practice of letting go has relevance to our evolving identities and routines.
Certainly, we both realize the need to “let go” as it relates to my husband’s work-life norms (and their residual emotions); every day I watch him shed pieces of the past and recalibrate to his new normal. I recognize that this evolution is challenging for him–before recent events, working (and money flow) were deeply rooted in his personal identity. As a former corporate America front-line producer and leader in capitalist America, he spent more than a decade out of the house riding the waves of business–beset with a quality of life rewarded with money from steady, hard work.
I, too, feel the pangs of a disrupted personal identity each time I become derailed from plans related to my own professional development. Now, at times, I forfeit picking up classes I would have normally subbed just to complete home-life tasks and strategize for the future. We obviously have more time together at home–and we both feel it.
I look at mine and others’ ways of coping during topsy-turvy phases life. I guard against my tendency to ruminate and worry about anything and everything because I know this leads to nothing positive. One of my top priorities is keeping our relationship in tact because the last thing I want to occur is to start feeling resentful just because our lives have changed and it’s been difficult to let go of the old normal.
Accordingly, I’m committed to practicing Upeksha. Here are five ways to move toward Upeksha, which in Sanskrit means equanimity, non-attachment, non-discrimination, even-mindedness, or letting go. These guidelines are definitely helping me feel more centered. Maybe they can for you, too.
1. Become or continue to stay a close witness to the “new normal” as the process of change unfolds. This helps you stay close to the situation and be able to offer support.
2. Stay objective and non-judgmental; “equanimity” is at the heart of UPEKSHA. Tenuous times call for extra patience.
3. Practice empathy. In a spousal relationship, this may seem simplistic and obvious, but it often requires mindful effort when times get tough. Upeksha says we have to “put ourselves in another’s skin.”
4. Don’t discriminate. Get rid of your judgments, your ideas about controlling the path of others. This is limiting thinking for your life partner–let him or her find their way.
5. Stay calm. Know that your life partner is a friend and should be treated like one–not a foe. The reality now true for you both was outside anyone’s control.
Additionally, as I reference these tenets and look at my past with all the former “new normals” that have occurred in my lifetime–I examine what I’ve done, what worked, and what didn’t. I explore my tendency to hang on to things, and I turn my focus to the negative thinking that resulted when I thought too much. Thus, along with these five practices of Upeksha, I’m also working on practicing mindfulness.
With “monkey brain” inevitably dying to come out, I simultaneously attempt to reverse my inner critic. She often says, “why is this tendency so? You yoga regularly–you know the rules, the breathing, etc. This should not be happening again.”
I guess, for me, the letting go part of this puzzle is key. It draws on yogic teachings about even-mindedness, releasing past patterns, and inner critical thinking, too.
According to Yoga Sutra 1.33, Upeksha relates to the fourth attitude to put forth with people. It refers to stability in the face of fluctuations of worldy fortune with regard to evenness of mind–so herein I find the element of mental steadiness I use to cope: the idea to stay steady with my own monkey brain as well as in the practical matters of career and money.
I get back to the task at hand of loving my spouse unconditionally. And I move forward with my plan to be a pillar of strength.
As the elevated tenor of our new normal quiets, the smallness of our problem in this election year pervades. It is then that my giggle turns into head nodding and an even boisterous chuckle.
I examine my irreverence. I decide I do not apply it in a minimizing way to dismiss myself or my feelings but in a way that helps adjust my perspective when I realize the size of my situation is very small, all things considered.
When we have campsite breakfast with our minimalist pre-prepared, dehydrated, pouched breakfasts, and morning Vias heated in the Jet Boil, more thoughts spill forth from the already seeping closet of my mind. I smile. I arrive back to the coiled slumber of the night in the queen-size sleeping bag where we watched the dew form on the Gortex tent ceiling. I realize my introspection began somewhat tritely with this type of summer vacation and arrived full circle toward Upeksha.
I conclude that our new normal is just beautiful, and we’re going to be fine.
In case you were wondering what the other three attitudes of unconditional love are in Buddhism, pick up Peter Harvey ‘s Introduction to Buddhism: Teaching, History and Practices.
Also by Jackie: How to Unblock Your Sixth Chakra and Rediscover Your Intuition
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Photos: Adriana Valasquez and Roxanne Desganges, both via Unsplash