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How to Harness Your Equanimity

e·qua·nim·i·ty
ˌekwəˈnimədē/
noun
  1. mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

    “she accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity

    synonyms: composure, calm, level-headedness, self-possession, coolheadedness, presence of mind;

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I think we all struggle with the search for peace.  To be able to “roll with the punches” or see the positive in a situation and keep going despite the world crumbling around you.

Just today, I received an email updating me on the state of an investigation. The investigation was based on allegations made against one of the most influential spiritual teachers in my life.  A man I have met.  His organization, Against The Stream, is an international society of Buddhist based meditation centers, teachers, students and seekers. I’ve sat in these centers. I’ve read his words and listened to his podcasts. I have found the greatest solace in his interpretation of recovery from addiction. And it’s all coming to an end.

After months of all of us holding our breath, the verdict came out today that  “Mr. Levine violated the Third Precept of the Teacher’s Code of Ethics, namely, “to avoid creating harm through sexuality.”
At the beginning of this, in March, fiscal impacts to ATS were immediate.

A 10th anniversary fundraiser was postponed, a large foundation grant was returned because they could not meet their objectives, and other forms of giving were contracted. Monthly expenses significantly outpaced revenue. Four board members resigned, a co-guiding teacher departed, two affiliate centers – Boston and Nashville – dissociated from ATS, and their Executive Director is planning to depart at the end of his contract period. Each member of their Teachers Council expressed a wish to dissociate themselves from Noah, and to begin again elsewhere to share teachings in a new form with students.

If you look up the word Equanimity in Wikipedia it will tell you that “Equanimity is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.”

Let’s be clear.
Equanimity is NOT calm under pressure, only to unravel after danger has past.
Equanimity is NOT putting on a calm exterior to appease others, while anxiety builds inside.
Equanimity is NOT indifference or resignation.

How do we harness a sense of equanimity at a time of great emotional confusion?
How can we find a sense of peace and balance in a world of constant change?

Here are my 3 suggestions:

1. Use the Buddha’s teachings on suffering to help you “start where you are.”

I practice Buddhism, not as a religion, but as a practical path for living with less suffering. By suffering, the Buddha was referring to our dissatisfaction with the circumstances of our lives. All of us have experienced this dissatisfaction, it’s simply our longing for our life to be different than it is, even when we have no control over the particular circumstance in question.
This is also why I have practiced yoga for over 20 years. The philosophical underpinnings of yoga teach you to let go of expectations, judgements, and competition. And start where you are with what you have. To do no harm, to yourself and others. To be honest, to be steadfast, and to forgive yourself for not being perfect.

2. Regard the Universal Law of impermanence as a friend.

When the going gets rough, I can see that everything in life, the weather, the stock market, and my daughter’s mood are in constant flux. I can engage in what I call “weather practice,” recognizing that physical ailments, stressful thoughts and emotions, and the current political climate are as changeable as the weather. They blow in and blow out like the wind. And thank goodness. If we can sit still and breathe for 5 minutes, we can often times wait out the storm of perturbation and welcome in the shining rays of equanimity once again.

3. Be content to take baby steps in the direction of equanimity.

Here’s a quotation from the Thai forest monk Ajahn Chah from his book A Still Forest Pool:

If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom. Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.

I use this “letting go” practice to help me cultivate the mental calmness and evenness of temper that are at the heart of equanimity. If I can’t “let go” a lot, I let go a little. The rest will come. A little peace is better than none at all.
And believe me, I am soooooooo far from mastering this practice! We are all taking our baby steps in the direction of finding peace.

And so, what will my next steps be??

That is always a great question to be asking yourself.

As far as the Noah Levine situation goes, I will start where I am. In Ventura, CA.
I know of a weekly meditation group here that is based on Noah’s teachings. It is new and fragile and I will take steps to strengthen the sangha (community) by showing up regularly and maybe even offering to host an additional guided meditation group once a week.
I will trust that the splintered factions of Against the Stream will create new and dynamic groups all over the world as those who were fully invested in the spiritual tradition and teachings carry on.
And I will constantly course correct my thoughts. When they stray towards sadness or confusion, I will practice these three steps and come back into alignment with the present moment. With what is in front of me RIGHT NOW.

I hope reading this blog has given you hope, and a moment to pause, breathe, and ponder the meaning of the word equanimity. I seriously just told my kid it is one of my top 10 favorite words ever.

I wrote an email to my friend Michele telling her that it reminds me of Meditation Mount in Ojai, which has been closed since the fires here last December. At Meditation Mount, they have little white cards with the word printed on them as well as large stone pillars throughout the gardens with the word carved in.

And come on, the Thomas Fire here in California this past winter was another prime example of how to harness one’s sense of Equanimity. When the whole house is going up in flames (literally sometimes)…what can we do?

It’s time for a Savasana for my blog at this point! I could go on and on with examples of times in my life I have had to pray to regain a sense of Equanimity.  But, I’d rather hear from you!
Please feel free to respond to this with your instances of being able to harness your equanimity in a situation that seemed bleak.
Know that you are not alone.

And that community is what it’s all about.

Thank You for being a part of mine.
xoxo
Carolyn

PS – If you want to see me rant on for 12 minutes about how AVOID REGRETS you can check out this Facebook Live I did last Wednesday: https://www.facebook.com/carolyn.maul.5/videos/10214690785355821/

 

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One Comment on “How to Harness Your Equanimity

Rossana
August 26, 2018 at 7:20 pm

This is a touching article, Carolyn. I enjoyed it so much. I don’t practice this as I should, but the saying that comes to me often is in the Toa de Ching. “Do by not doing.” In other words, we tend to believe we have control over things in life. We do, but we don’t. Thus, equanimity. Love you! Miss you! Thank you.
Rossana

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