Sally Clough Armstrong began practicing vipassana meditation in India in 1981. She moved to the Bay Area in 1988, and worked at Spirit Rock until 1994 in a number of roles, including executive director. She began teaching in 1996, and is one of the guiding teachers of Spirit Rock's Dedicated Practitioner Program.
Sally has always been inspired by the depth and the breadth of the Buddha’s teaching, as presented in the suttas of the Pali Canon, because the truth and power of the Buddha’s words still speak to us today. Her intention in teaching is to make these ancient texts and practices accessible and relevant to all levels of practitioner, from the very new to the dedicated meditator.
There are two main aspects to equanimity as a Brahma Vihara: first, a balanced, spacious mind, which is a mental factor we can know and cultivate. Secondly, an understanding of the nature of reality, known in Buddhist teachings as the dhamma, or truth, which is expressed here in the teachings on kamma (karma in Sanskrit.) Kamma simply means action, and refers to the universal laws of cause and effect and conditionality. In this teaching, the Buddha highlighted the importance of intentions in our actions. We come to understand that our lives are shaped by our choices, and the importance of bringing mindfulness and wisdom to our choices and intentions. We also should be aware that, even with good intentions, our actions can have harmful impacts, especially as we live, work and practice in communities with people with different cultural, racial, economic, gender identifications, sexual orientations, or other diverse experiences.
Patience and equanimity are two of the paramis - 10 perfections that we develop in our practice on the path to awakening. Ledi Sayadaw says that “Patience and equanimity are the mainstay for the perfections. Only when one has set oneself up in these two can one expect to fulfill the rest." These 2 qualities are intertwined and support each other: if we are patient, we are developing equanimity, and vice versa. Both are necessary for our meditation practice and bring peace and calm into our minds and hearts.
Equanimity is central to the Buddha's teachings and practices, and so underlies and supports both mindfulness and metta (loving-kindness). For Samma Sati, Right Mindfulness, to develop, equanimity needs to function to keep us connected with experiences even when they are difficult or challenging, to deepen insight into the true nature of reality. In metta practice, equanimity keeps the heart open when conditions are not ideal for kindness - and they are often not ideal!
This talk is about the similarities and subtle differences of the 3 kinds of intention: Cetana (...intention, purpose, objective, agenda, goal, target, etc.),
Sankappa (right thought and intent, avoiding unwholesome mind states, cultivating wholesome, etc.) and Aditthana (decision, resolution, self-determination, will and resolution, etc.)
All three types are important resources as we train our heart/minds through intensive practice and in our day to day lives.
There are five factors, known as the jhanic factors, that are cultivated in meditation practice, especially as our practice deepens on long retreats. These factors collect and gather the attention, and then bring the qualities of joy and contentment into the mind and heart. From this place, the mind naturally settles into one-pointedness and equanimity.
Renunciation can seem like rejection or a penance. But true renunciation is more like relinquishment - letting go of what no longer serves us, allowing the mind and heart more space to open and find freedom.