Before I really understood what it meant, I'd have thought equanimity was a rather dull aspiration. However, equanimity is now my master value - the enduring star on my frame of reference for life. So why this change?
Equanimity means to "maintain mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation."
At times we can generate anger and hostility towards others, only to regret our rather instantaneous reaction later. Such irritable reactivity is all the more likely when we are stressed with deadlines, pressures, and problems, have not slept well or feel run down. And then we can spend days regretting our actions. At other times we can feel that the world is stacking the odds against us, and we might even feel self-pity, and wallow in our low mood, helplessly giving up on projects, plans and aspirations that are dear to us. We can also lose our mental equilibrium when we go into orbit with our excitement. Our elation may quickly descend down the mood helter-skelter into anger, fear, guilt and shame if we suddenly come up against something that stops us in our tracks.
Often these changing emotions come hand-in-hand with a whole stash of thoughts that ratchet up the emotion. Remember the last time you felt angry...your mind probably went into all sorts of judgments about what SHOULD or SHOULD NOT have happened, and what a defective person it was who has crossed you in this way. Or when you were low, your mind almost certainly jumped to a supply of depressed thoughts about how you were a failure, and life never went your way, how you are always ending up feeling intolerably despondent, and what a drag it all is.
So if we manage to balance our reaction early, softening it with equanimity we can often allow a feeling to pass through our awareness before it snowballs into an overwhelming experience. Generating equanimity allows us to accept the highs and lows in life without getting totally taken over by the feelings. This means we feel the full range of emotions without being consumed by them. It means we can experience the feeling whilst knowing it is transient and not getting too caught up and identified with it. This way we can develop deeper fulfilment, satisfaction and joy, and be less caught up in the more flitting feelings that come and go.
This is an extremely practical strength to develop as it means we can be more stable in our mood, and more balanced and consistent in our actions. By being able to not get blindly caught up in an emotion, we can remain connected to what is important to us in life, and carry on moving towards our values.
In order to develop an even mind and mood it can help us to foreground it as something we are developing, keeping in mind our aspiration. It is also incredibly powerful to remain body-aware, so really having a sense of your own body. You can focus on the physical sensations of any part of your body to bring you back into the here-and-now. A particularly useful focus is the breath, as this is always present, and always moving. It draws us into the present moment. Another advantage of focusing on the breath is that we can consciously slow it down, directly settling our nervous systems into a more equanimous mode - activating the parasympathetic nervous system. A regular practice of mindfulness meditation can also help us maintain equanimity by developing our self-awareness, our awareness of how transient feelings and thoughts are, and our ability to step back from these experiences. Loving-kindness (compassion) meditation can also help us move more easily to a less hostile stance and become more accepting of other people, however they are towards us.
In my coaching and training work, I help you strengthen the skills that develop equanimity, enabling you to live a meaningful, satisfying life, with rich and rewarding relationships.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 3409 2545.