Teacher Spotlight

Some Thoughts on Equanimity and the Meaning of Life


Michael Miner

A long-time dedicated IOW teacher, Michael recently shared the following essay at the 2011 Giving Thanks Feast which was attended by Alumni, staff, teachers, mentors and community partners.

There are many very good reasons why we don’t remember our own birth and early childhood.  Mainly because we are hungry, dissatisfied, self-absorbed monsters.  Gaping mouths in the carnival ride of life, ready to consume every object that comes down the tracks.  Empathy?  Sharing?  Community?  Heck with all of that.  This is the one time we can truly get away with being sociopaths and not be punished for it.

We have no guilt.  There are no feelings of remorse.  It is simply the politics of survival.  That is, until a profound recognition occurs about the first object outside our all-encompassing orbit of selfishness…

Our MOTHER.  There is nothing like a mother’s love.  The sacrifice.  The caring.  The forgiveness.  All of which hold the origins of our redemption.  I will return to Mother in a moment but…

In the meantime, our trial-and-error saga continues, in fact seems endless.  As the old Inuit Chief reminds us, “Good decisions come from experience, but experience comes from BAD DECISIONS.”  How many mistakes can one make in a day?  A month?  A year?  A decade?  Only Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Shiva, Yahweh, Gaia or the zeros and ones in our computer know the answer to that question.

But then one day, whether we are looking for it or not, change happens.  A dawning realization that, uh oh, satisfying our own appetites is no longer enough.  The accumulation of big toys, the number of lovers, the victories and defeats, the daily ticker of success and failure, the anxiety-fueled search for approval.  None of the games work anymore.  All of the noise stops getting us high.

Everyone who is familiar with this moment will never forget it.  Because secretly it is what we have been yearning for our entire lives.  EQUANIMITY has finally arrived.

Our ego is no longer at war with the world.  We approach life with an open hand instead of a closed fist.  It is no longer a game of us versus them.  Our enemies forgive us.  And friends receive our existence as a gift.  Life makes perfect sense.

But why didn’t this happen sooner?  Perhaps we weren’t ready?  Perhaps the lessons had to be hard-won?  Perhaps no one spent the time to teach us?  But none of that really matters on this day, because we have arrived at our destination.  This is what the Buddha called BODDHICITTA.

Boddhicitta is a Sanskrit term which means “mind of enlightenment,” “seed of enlightenment,” or “awakened heart.”  There are a number of ways we can cultivate boddhicitta, but the first way is most important.  The Buddha said that we all will experience endless lifetimes.  If we believe this is true, then every being we encounter on the path of life has been or will be our father, brother, sister, enemy, friend… and MOTHER.

Which means, whether we want to or not, eventually we all will have the opportunity to show everyone unconditional love.  We will nurture and support and take care of everyone, when they are weak or lost or in distress.  Because this is what mothers do.

But wait.  There’s more.  Those agnostics, atheists and Area 51 people among us who don’t believe in life after death, rebirth or reincarnation, can still understand this concept of universal motherhood.  All of us have been in good situations that have turned bad.  And we’ve been in bad situations that have turned good.  The point of boddhicitta or universal motherhood is to promote equanimity and well-being by reducing our attachment to value judgments like good and bad.

The idea of enemies and friends or good and bad or light and dark is based on seeing the world through a fixed lens.  Sharks are bad.  Bunny rabbits are good.  Democracy is good.  Communism is bad.  Etc., Etc., Etc.  But EQUANIMITY — aka UNIVERSAL MOTHERHOOD aka BODDHICITTA — is a state of mind as vast as the universe.  It doesn’t take sides.  It doesn’t judge.  It is the process by which we develop compassion and loving kindness for everyone and everything.

To those of you who experience this — equanimity, universal motherhood, boddhicitta — I salute you.  To those of you who don’t, I wish you its speedy arrival.

All of you at InsideOUT Writers, the staff, the teachers, the alumni, the students, you all know what I am talking about.

Blessings to all you perpetrators and victims of compassion and love.  I now travel with a crowd that has lifted me up, and taught me the meaning of a peace that is beyond my own understanding.

Michael Miner received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Theater, and a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he wrote and directed LABYRINTHS, which won a Focus and Cine Eagle Award, ALIAS JANE DOE, which was exhibited at the Deauville and Bilbao film festivals, and COSMOGRAPHIA, which was exhibited at Filmex. While at UCLA he was also a cinematographer of ten student films including SCARRED, which was exhibited commercially and FOOL’S DANCE, which was produced by PBS.

Mr. Miner’s professional career includes time as a director of photography and director/cameraman of twenty music videos. As co-writer of ROBOCOP, the iconic action story about the part man/part machine law enforcer of the future, Mr. Miner received the SATURN AWARD for Best Science Fiction Screenplay and a nomination for Best Screenplay by the Mystery Writers of America. He is also the co-writer of the pilot for ROBOCOP: THE TELEVISION SHOW, produced by Sky TV,  ANACONDAS: SEARCH FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID, the action adventure sequel about humans battling deadly snakes, and LAWNMOWERMAN II, the science fiction sequel to the virtual reality story about an idiot savant trapped in a computer program.  Mr. Miner made his debut as a writer/director with DEADLY WEAPON, a drama about a teenager who finds a prototype Star Wars weapon and uses it to take a desert town hostage. Most recently, he directed THE BOOK OF STARS, magic realism about the troubled relationship between two sisters and the memory book one of them keeps that has the power to anticipate future events.  Mr. Miner discovered the script while teaching a writing class at the Maine Photographic Workshops.

Mr. Miner has written screenplays for Oliver Stone, Sylvester Stallone and Michael Douglas.  He is currently developing a feature film based on the true story of a friendship between a Franciscan priest and a gangster living in a ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica, an erotic thriller situated on the campus of Harvard University, and two television series, one about Juvenile Justice in America and the other about the dystopian aspects of digital information.  He has taught screenwriting at the Maine Photographic Workshops, the University of Hawaii, the Southeastern Media Institute, the Praxis Center for Screenwriting in Vancouver, the University of California at Santa Barbara, California State University at Los Angeles and the InsideOUT Writers Program for incarcerated juveniles.  Mr. Miner has embarked on a second career as a large format landscape photographer.  He spent the month of January, 2010, working as an artist-in-residence at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for the National Park Service.  His images are in hundreds of private collections and on display in galleries in Monterey, California and Durango, Colorado.