Equanimity Consideration and Practice

Equanimity is a state of mental calmness and composure, especially in difficult situations. It is the ability to maintain a balanced and stable mind, regardless of external circumstances. Many people consider equanimity to be a positive trait, as it allows a person to respond to challenges and adversity in a level-headed and balanced way. Some people may strive to cultivate equanimity in their own lives as a way to increase their resilience and emotional well-being.

Some examples of equanimity might include:

  • A person who remains calm and composed in the face of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or an earthquake.
  • A person who maintains a balanced and stable mind despite experiencing a significant personal setback, such as the loss of a job or the end of a relationship.
  • A person who is able to remain calm and collected in a high-stress situation, such as during a public speaking engagement or a competitive sports event.
  • A person who is able to maintain a positive attitude and approach to life, even when faced with chronic pain or illness.
  • A person who is able to keep their emotions in check and respond to challenging situations in a measured and rational way.

Some may be interested in the “eight worldly conditions” as these potentially upset your equanimity.

“Monks, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. – The failings of the world

“When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.” – Marcus Aurelius

No Matter Who You Are or Where

I think religion in many ways seeks to address equanimity. I found this from Jewish text

Shivisi — I have set G‑d before me at all times.” (Tehillim 16:8)

Shivisi is an expression of hishtavus (equanimity): no matter what happens, whether people praise or shame you — or with anything else that comes your way — it is all the same to you. This applies likewise to food: whether you are eating delicacies or other things, it is all the same to you. For [with this perspective] the yetzer hara is entirely removed from you.

Whatever may happen, say that “it comes from [G‑d], blessed be He, and if it is proper in His eyes….” Your motives are altogether for the sake of Heaven, and as for yourself, nothing makes any difference.

This [sense of equanimity] is a very high level.

Tzava’at HaRivash,
The Testament of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, p. 1

I pulled this from a Christian reference:

Equanimity is a manifestation of resting in God’s grace and trusting in His plan. Humbled is another word that could be used to describe the state of equanimity. Christian equanimity is a matter of recognizing that our thoughts and ideas can only go so far compared to God’s, when we truly accept that we “can do all things through God who strengthens us.”  This is often a misused and misquoted verse from Paul. Paul did not mean we can do anything; he is talking about contentment, that we have equanimity amid our strife, as Paul was writing from prison. 

Thomas Merton’s famous “Fourth and Walnut” quote adequately captures a sense of non-duality and loving kindness, compassion and empathetic joy: 

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

–from Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
With equanimity, we need to think less of doing and more of being.

As I have searched, I could find references to equanimity interwoven in all religion.

If it is true that in all religion and philosophy equanimity is a fundamental common denominator, we can find ourselves realizing a deep core “human truth.” This is available to almost every man, woman and child everywhere at all times.

Practice of

Evenness of mind especially under stress.

Equanimity combines an understanding mind together with a compassionate heart.

To cultivate equanimity, sit in a comfortable posture with your eyes closed. Bring a soft attention to your breath until your body and mind are calm. Then begin by reflecting on the benefit of a mind that has balance and equanimity.

Equanimity is “a container of balance that helps hold all of the other Brahma-Viaharas (loving-kindness, compassion, and joy).” When equanimity is developed, it leads to acceptance, patience, and stability. It fortifies one’s capacity to accept life as it is. It allows an individual to work with change rather than against it.

If we can accept that equanimity is not something that we need to argue about as being sound, valid, practical and useful, we can move on to using it without boundaries.

Christianity also elevates this way of being in the world as evidenced by St. Paul declaration to the Philippians:

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (4:11-13). It is said that when we suffer, G-d suffers with us. To address suffering, a person must find a way to let go.

Buddhist scholar, Terry Cortés-Vega, offers a prayer (practice) which goes as follows:

1. After settling into stillness, bring your attention to your breathing.

2. Allow your slow, deep breaths to ease the tension and tightness in your body.

3. Rest for several moments in peaceful stillness.

4. Begin and end each line of the prayer with an in-breath and out-breath. Speak each line to yourself or aloud.

  • May I live my life fully connected to whatever is happening around me without rushing toward what is pleasant or resisting what is unpleasant.
  • May I fully connect with all others without judging or labeling, not dividing people into “good” and “bad.”
  • May I offer friendship to all beings without expecting appreciation or even acknowledgement.
  • May I rejoice in the good fortune of everyone without feeling threatened or jealous.
  • May I give up all possessive egoistic thoughts of “mine” and “self.”
  • May I offer compassion to all beings.
  • May I offer compassion to myself.

5. End your prayer with several slow mindful breaths.

Less focused on the word “prayer” with more focus on the practice of connecting with yourself and discovering what happens as you let go and navigate the feelings associated with this.

Why?

In life, work or play we find ourselves disconnected on auto-pilot or worse. Many people suffer alone and in silence. People may not realize the tether or connection they have to a greater source. https://www.netflix.com/tudum/videos/the-grateful-flow-the-work

In practice, if you can find time for yourself and you are willing, give some of these practices a try. Let me know how it goes!

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