Finding Equanimity: It’s Not Just For Yogis Anymore

You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.  ~Marcus Aurelius

Lately, I have, for lack of a better phrase, worked on not getting caught up in the emotions of others. I am centering on the practice of setting in motion each beautiful day with a personal mantra of sorts: I will not own that which I cannot control.

And, apparently, there’s a term for that approach of mindfulness.

Equanimity.

Day in and day out, I am relishing the practicality of bringing an equanimity practice to both my personal life and to my interactions at work. It has become a very alluring shift in mindset. No doubt, equanimity possesses massive potential as a tool for learning, concentration, and being present in the moment.

In a recent meditation offering, long time yoga and meditation practitioner, Annemaree Rowley, captured (for me) a heartfelt perspective of equanimity:

Life is amazing. And then it is awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it is ordinary, mundane, and routine. Breathe through the amazing, hold onto the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living a heartbreaking, soul searching, amazing, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful. 

A colleague shared that equanimity is a fundamental practice in Buddhism. Naturally, I got curious. I researched for the Buddhist connection and philosophy of equanimity. And ahhhhh, there’s a lot out there folks. And naturally, I quickly became overwhelmed. However, an article by Desbordes, et al. with its wordily-titled Moving Beyond Mindfulness: Defining Equanimity as an Outcome Measure in Meditation and Contemplative Research, clearly outlines the various Buddhist definitions and perspectives of being. The research challenges the reader to look past the pithy concept of mindfulness for deeper purpose. Full disclosure: It is a dense article and I’m still currently mired in reading it.

But to make an initial personal connection to what I have read equanimity has become (figuratively) the calm within the storm of everyday living. The article’s ideas of openness, receptivity, and recognition influence how we show up in our lives, and how we are influenced by the various storms in said lives. And some days are, as Rowley notes, mundane, and while others are awful. Both polarities, I am learning, require equanimity.

In order to shore up my ‘growing calm amid the chaos’ energetic, I have been engaging in a twice-weekly meditative practice focusing on equanimity; to help me to balance an open, caring curiosity without souring the experiences with (perceived) apathy and neglect of others in their moments of emotion. More importantly, I feel that this adopted practice has helped me with staying consciously available as much as possible in moments of stress and anxiety, particular that of others. It’s kinda of like a cold bucket of water dumped on my head when caught in the powerful vortices of emotion and feelings.

To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity.  ~Pema Chodron

I have a deep-rooted feeling that standing with equanimity in trying and difficult situations will get easier. Practice, indeed. I also recognize that there will continue to be those interactions where I am swept up in the thunderclouds of emotion (something to do with being an Aries perhaps?). But these past several weeks have revealed the importance of flexing my equanimity muscles.

JY

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