Our ideas of good and bad are not factual distinctions we make. Good and bad are subjective, fluctuating, and often illusory divisions we tend to make in order to solidify our point of view. Lately I have been appreciating the practice of equanimity, which I’ve found to be a fruit of cultivating the art of mindfulness. I would define equanimity as the ability to not be easily swayed by false ideas of good and bad, right and wrong. Developing the insight of equanimity allows us to accept situations, people, and ourselves just as they are and not get caught in duality.
I’ve recently started corresponding with an old acquaintance who is currently in the county detention center. He’s awaiting trial and wrote me a letter a few days ago. In his letter he stated that while he sees there are two sides of him, one that seeks goodness and one who is, in his words, evil, he will probably always be on the dark side of life. He wanted me to know what I was getting myself into before corresponding further, for the sake of my own well-being.
I visited him last weekend and wasn’t sure he’d remember me or not. When I knew him he was trying to get healthier and water positive seeds and started attending our weekly meditation group. It had been probably over a year since last I’d seen him. When I saw him through the glass in the visitor area last weekend he looked much different then I had remembered. His eyes and his smile had lost their bright and beautiful shine. I was a bit nervous to see him and wasn’t really sure what I would say to him. I picked up the phone on the wall divider that separated our visitor stations and proceeded to tell him that I was there as a friend and while I know we didn’t know each other well I cared about him and wanted to offer support.
He and I may come from different worlds but I see clearly that despite having many differences we are also both the same too. We are all products of many different causes and conditions. In my belief no one is evil and no one deserves to be tossed aside because of their actions. We are all made of both positive and negative components. I have no grand notions of changing this friend of mine nor of expounding teachings of mindfulness or watering my ego. I wrote back to him today and said that my intention in connecting with him is to simply offer support and friendship as one human being to another human being. I hold no judgement of his actions and presume to know nothing about anyone’s experiences other then my own. This is the benefit of developing equanimity. We should not be too sure that we know anything about anyone else’s life.
We all have goodness within us. We all have the capacity to change. We are all comprised of skillful and unskillful energies. And many of those among us in our society have never had the opportunity to be loved, supported, and understood. All gardens need to be watered and nurtured by the sun. When they are deprived of these basic elements they will not grow and thrive. Human beings are of the same nature.