Dead Fish in the Washing Machine

I don’t want to be the dead fish in the washing machine. My teacher Alistair Appleton uses that metaphor I think to describe a mind which is lacking in equanimity. And it’s precisely equanimity which I know is needed in my life right now. A calmness, a steadfastness, a surfing of the waves of change, an acceptance of the changing of the ‘weather’, rather than getting tossed around by the rapid fluctuations of life. It came up in my meditation this morning – I realised how subtle ‘grasping’ can be. It doesn’t always equate to reaching for people or possessions in order to gain transitory gratification. In looking at a fight I had last night which had resulted from a build-up of my feelings of lack of trust, I realised today that that need for trust and the anger and suspicion arising from it, were themselves ‘grasping’ – I wanted trust in order to stop feeling unsafe. But the other person had never had any intrinsic means to make my life unsafe – they could influence a change in the emotional ‘weather’, but nothing else. So feeling insecure wasn’t really about trust at all – with equanimity I would always be able to navigate the changes in the ‘weather’. The insecurity came from a block to equanimity, and today’s sitting revealed its absence came from an lacking by me of metta – loving kindness –  for myself. Realising that moved me to tears.

With the worldview I’ve had throughout my adult life, it’s been the easiest of Alistair’s lessons to repeatedly discard, but I can’t much longer. Well wishing – why wouldn’t you wish someone well, why not wish yourself well – it seems counter-intuitive not to. For me it’s been down to a habitual mindstate of needing reciprocity, that somehow I’m due loving kindness if I give it. But I realised a few days ago that that’s a conceit – it’s our marketised society that convinces us, trains us, that if it’s something we give then it’s something we’re due; that we can and should dismiss people who don’t fulfil their side of an unspoken bargain. But that’s just ‘grasping’ again – an unskilled mindstate which leads nowhere. It involves an absence of generosity and doesn’t lay the groundwork for metta, itself the underpinning of the four brahma viharas, and the one out of which compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity flow.


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