Finally, the season of Advent is coming to a close and the Christmas season is around the corner. Over the past four weeks, we have explored how the practice of yoga can help draw back the veil of Maya, allowing us to see the world more clearly. We were reminded that the birth of Jesus, first coming of Christ, was the beginning of God’s ultimate plan to heal the world and reunite heaven and earth. We considered how the second coming of Christ, in this present moment, transforms our hearts and minds by purifying the kleshas and dismantling the power of sin in our lives. Here, we will consider the third and final coming of Christ and how it can help us to see the world rightly enabling us to move through our lives with equanimity.
In The Bhagavad Gita, Yoga is defined as “equanimity” and it tells us that equanimity allows us to face difficulty with a “steady and quiet” mind. When we cultivate equanimity, we are moved by injustice in the world and motivated to make things better, but our deep inner serenity is not disturbed. Equanimity should not to be mistaken for indifference, but rather a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a reaction born of emotion or defensiveness.
So how can we cultivate equanimity?
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra teaches that abhyasa, continuous applied effort, combined with vairagya, the willingness to observe an experience without reacting to it, will lead to equanimity. (Chapter 1:12-16) Calming breathing techniques, mantra meditation, and prayer for the happiness of all beings are prescribed to cultivate equanimity. While these techniques can be beneficial, their effects are temporary and hinge on the effort of the practitioner.
Advent allows us to cultivate equanimity that does not depend on human effort but on the power and promises of God.
True, lasting, equanimity is a way of seeing correctly, a way of dealing with life, in which we are given a broader perspective of things. When in a state of equanimity, our attention is pointed to the bigger picture, which is the story God is telling in this world. When our attention from moment to moment, day to day, is pointed toward God, we are not affected as deeply by the lesser cares of this world. Through the story of Advent, we gain correct perspective, and our lives are re-ordered by God. Through the perspective that Advent offers us, believers can have equanimity in the face of adversity.
In the face of brokenness, our hope is in the final coming of Jesus Christ. He is our peace. We take comfort in the knowledge that through Jesus, God has defeated the power of darkness forever. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live as an “Advent people”. We are given a heavenly perspective and are enabled to view this world in light of eternity. We witness darkness, but are not overcome by it. (John 1:5) We are: hard-pressed, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8)
Equanimity is remembering that you are part of the story but not the author. The season of Advent reminds us that the story is being told by God and invites us to observe ourselves as part of the story. The birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people, and the beginning of God’s ultimate plan to reunite heaven and earth. As we look back to the first coming of Christ, we are infused with HOPE for the future. God is faithful, his Word is true, and we are living in the midst of his story. We are assured of Emmanuel, God with us, even in times of trouble and we can gaze into the darkness of this world with a BOLD HOPE.
That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Romans 8:18-25 MSG
The transformation that started with the birth of Christ is not yet complete. We are living in a world that is still awaiting the final “coming of Christ” when Jesus will defeat the power of sin for all of eternity. We long for the time when Jesus will shatter the chains of oppression, injustice, death, sickness, and sadness forever. We are desperate for the time when Jesus will split the darkness with his Light, obliterating it forever. True lasting equanimity is found through Jesus; He is our peace. The story God is telling in the world is not yet finished, however we know how the story the ends.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5
Advent does not deny the darkness; but boldly claims HOPE in the face of darkness. We can cultivate equanimity because we know the end of the story, Jesus will come again and shatter the chains of sin and oppression once and for all. When that time comes the Light will overcome the darkness forever and Jesus will establish His reign of Justice and Peace for all eternity. Until then, we are invited to look forward to the final coming of Christ and reflect:
- How does knowing the story of God change your perception of what you see happening in the world?
- Do you have an attitude of anticipation and expectancy for Jesus to come again?
- Are you ready? How does Christ’s return convict you? Are there areas of your life that need to change?
- Are you waiting? Do you long for Jesus to return? How does Christ’s return comfort you?
- How can the darkness around you enlarge your HOPE in waiting and expectation?
Pranayama breath prayer for Equanimity this week from John 16:33: (Jesus says) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Inhale: In this world you will have trouble.
Exhale: But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Heavenly Father, your word is eternal, your faithfulness endures forever, and all things serve you. We praise you Father for the story that you are telling. We are humbled that you invite us to be part of the story. Lord, we are yours; help us to see rightly and give us understanding that we may know your ways. Teach us to be expectant with the hope of your promises. Show us how to wait with you for the time when Christ will come again to wipe every tear from our eyes, and when there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. Amen.