Hōgetsu Laurie Belzer
Equanimity in our Whirling World

On Sunday, June 11, 2023, after meditation we listened to a Dharma talk from Rev. Hōgetsu Laurie Belzer entitled Equanimity in our Whirling World.

In this talk, Hōgetsu introduces the four brahmavihārā practices. The practices are loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity, and she focuses on equanimity in this talk. Hōgetsu voices caution in her approach, as equanimity can be misunderstood. This equanimity isn’t about being distant or shutting things out. Rather, it’s about being balanced, about “having space for whatever arises, moment to moment”. This state of equanimity is about being in a space which isn’t trying to control or hold onto things.

As part of the four brahmavihārā practices, equanimity works together with the other practices, and the purpose is to develop a more skillful approach to the world. Hōgetsu quotes the Dalai Lama as saying that one should first develop equanimity toward all sentient beings, then water that field of equanimity with loving-kindness before planting the seed of compassion. In such a situation, the germination of the seed of compassion “will be swift and complete”.

Hōgetsu describes equanimity in another way, by referring to the concept of a “window of tolerance”. Within the window, we are better able to respond skillfully and appropriately to situations, but stress and difficulty can push us out of the window. The practice of equanimity is about widening that window, so we can respond to the world from a place of inner balance despite challenges.

In discussion, the group connected the practice of equanimity with modern stressors such as social media and the news. Social media can encourage more and greater outrage, and can threaten equanimity. The news, too, can encourage negative emotions, since news media often tend to push negative stories. When encountering the news, ask “is it true?” and “what did they leave out?”.

The equanimity which Hōgetsu describes in her talk seems like an active thing, something which allows one to take in the world and react to it, then return to center, rather than being pushed out of balance. It’s also important not to hold too closely to ideas, a point which Hōgetsu illustrates with stories about Shunryu Suzuki, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. In one story, Suzuki Roshi makes a mistaken assumption about a student’s motivations; when he sees that he was wrong, he instantly changes his approach, without holding on to his previous view. This is an aspect of equanimity which we could all benefit from.

The recording we shared during our session is posted below.

Happy learning!


From the Teachers: Equanimity in our Whirling World

The audio file posted below is a shortened version of the original. It contains only the part we shared with CBMG members during our 06/11/2023 meeting. The original recording created by Ancient Dragon Zen Gate (ADZG) begins with a chanting segment, and include more exchanges with the audience before and after the talk. To hear the full recording, please visit www.AncientDragon.org.
Hōgetsu Laurie Belzer

Equanimity in our Whirling World” — Dharma talk by Rev. Hōgetsu Laurie Belzer *

SOURCE: https://www.ancientdragon.org/podcast/equanimity-in-our-whirling-world/ 

* Rev. Hōgetsu Laurie Belzer is a dharma teacher and lineage holder in the Soto zen tradition of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, and received dharma transmission from Rev. Taiyo Lipscomb. Since 1989, Hōgetsu has trained intensively at all three of San Francisco Zen Center’s temples, where she served as Shuso (Head Monk) with Tenshin Reb Anderson at Green Gulch Farm. A founding member of ADZG, Hōgetsu has supported the evolution of our practice center since its genesis and serves the wonderful ADZG community in many ways, including as Thursday morning zazen host , practice leader, and sewing practice mentor.