I wanted to write this blog to share some wisdom about the concept and practice of equanimity.
In the dictionary equanimity is defined as ‘calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation’.
I undertook my trauma-sensitive yoga and pilates teacher training course in Thailand. My teacher is a yogi with many years’ experience living within South East Asian cultures, as well as having worked in a multitude of Western healthcare services. Because of her knowledge spanning both East and West, the course was informed by both cultures and as a result I was able to learn incredible amounts about different approaches to health, wellbeing and the establishment of self.
A huge influence on how people in much of South East Asia, especially Thailand, view and understand the world is Buddhism.
First up – what does equanimity mean?
Equanimity forms one of the four virtues or Immeasurables of Buddhism. This quality should be cultivated alongside empathetic joy, compassion and loving-kindness and is believed to help the practitioner reach salvation.
Equanimity in Buddhism is understood as an individual’s ability to remain balanced and unshakable through life’s inevitable pleasures and pains.
In practice it is demonstrated through establishing an awareness of what is happening in the present moment. To be able to notice the response you are having and to let it occur without becoming too attached.
By choosing not to act, or re-act, from a place of heightened emotion in any given situation and instead remain aligned with your own wisdom and see life clearly whether it is unpleasant or pleasant.
This balanced non-reactivity is not to be misinterpreted with disinterest or passivity. Instead it is about choosing not to chase feelings of pleasure (in whatever form that takes) or actively avoiding pain but int turn to experience life as it comes with no pressure and no expectation.
Speaking about equanimity the Dalai Lama said:
“With equanimity you can deal with situations with calm and reason whilst keeping your inner peace.”
Explaining equanimity Buddha said:
“Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm, even so the wise are not affected by praise or blame.”
There is a need for this now
There is a need for equanimity in society today (not necessarily just from practicing Buddhists – but from all people). Society is overflowing with people who are overflowing.
There are a multitude of social movements and political agendas fuelled by anger, fear, hatred, grief and overwhelm. These movements create a lot of noise, a lot of energy and grab attention but from a Buddhist perspective change does not happen amidst noise.
How can anyone create change when it is about blaming one side or another? How can peace and calm prevail when anger and fury are motivating factors?
The basic principles of conflict resolution (another area of my training which was so incredibly valuable) is that for real change to be achieved we need to WORK TOGETHER.
Both sides need to join forces and find common ground to find peace. Interacting through strong aggressive emotions only alienates ‘opposition’. Both need to be working towards a common goal.
Blame. Guilt. Anger. Aggression. Fear.
These are not the places to forge meaningful change from.
And we live in a world where many embody their emotions. Are ruled by them.
Noone seems to be making decisions and interacting from a place emotional equanimity. Nuetrality. Calm.
Equanimity is not about denial
I think it is important to point out here that equanimity and the practice of it doesn’t deny that unpleasant things happen. It doesn’t deny ethics. It doesn’t deny history.
From my perspective equanimity espouses the importance of NOT acting out of your reactions.
But instead encourages the need to step back. Breathe. Feel. Process. Understand. Think.
And from a reasoned thought-through place – choose how to interact.
I am sure a lot of people can relate to the act of re-acting. Something happens, maybe someone says something, a partner, that triggers you. You see red. And before you know it you’re blasting them and having a huge argument that spirals into something you never intended for it to become.
Yet once you’ve calmed down, maybe gone for a walk, or spent some time in silence, you feel very differently.
Cultivating a practice
And this is why self-care and developing a personal practice is so important.
If one by one individual’s looked inside and began to work on themselves then I believe we would feel a marked shift in society.
It all starts with building self-awareness. Noticing – how do I feel today?
What emotions keep coming up for me?
What things trigger me?
Do I need to talk it through with a therapist? How can I work on myself?
If we don’t look inside and take time to tend to that then the way in which we interact with the world will simply be a projection of what we feel inside.
Unprocessed emotion turned outwards.
Yoga on and off the mat
Because of all I have learned during my training, the yoga and pilates sessions I offer are inspired by the notion of equanimity – I recognise the importance of bringing myself and my students back to NUETRAL.
Moving the body, calming the nervous system, breathing, using beautiful grounding tools to increase self-awareness. This helps move stagnant energy through the body and provides an opportunity to listen to what is there. Sometimes nothing. Often a lot.
The mat is a great place to cultivate a practice of equanimity. A chance to process, move, breathe and come back to a place of calm. So that when we leave the mat or studio we can use the practice of noticing, breathing and interacting with ourself and others in a calm, considered way.
Emotions come and go. You may feel love one moment, joy another and anger the next.
Life can be exhausting if you feel completely overwhelmed and controlled by these emotions.
Instead if you can create a practice of noticing then you may be able to find the middle road.
A place of calm.
From a calm place you see you are not one emotion or another. You are simply You. And when you come back to You. You will find exactly what you need.
Calm. Peace. Wisdom. Joy.
And from that place you can choose to interact in a wholesome, beneficial, considered way.
Self-awareness grows one day at a time.
Sending so much love to you on your journey.