Dani Shapiro
January 19, 2009

On Equanimity

So hard to find, so easy to lose–that elusive state known as peace-of-mind. You’d think it would be within our grasp all the time. I mean, after all, what else is there, other than consciousness? And if it’s OUR consciousness, why can’t we simply switch the dial from, say, rabid self-doubt and antagonism to lovely, clear thoughts? Buddhists call it monkey mind. The mind that jumps from branch to branch–and why? Because that’s what the mind does. Because the branches are there, so enticing.

Which is why I try to sit at my desk and begin writing in the morning before the monkey (okay, the entire jungle of monkeys) in my mind starts swinging. If I begin to work–as opposed to bouncing around on the internet, which is the modern equivalent of monkey mind–I have a prayer in hell of having a decent writing day, and what’s more, maintaining something resembling peace of mind. But if I don’t? If I think I can maybe do a few other things first? Like…read the Times, check in with a friend, fill out forms for summer camp…my day is heading toward hopeless. It’s possible to start over again, to start the day again, but it requires much greater effort, and extracts a greater cost.

A friend asked yesterday if I take weekends off from writing, and I answered that I do. I don’t know how I arrived at this, but from the beginning of my writing life, I have always kept something like bankers hours. Monday through Friday, 9-5 or something close to it. Now, with a child who leaves for school at 7:30, my day starts a bit earlier, but often ends a bit earlier too. No matter. It’s enough time. Enough time, as long as I remember that these are the precious hours, and use them well.