“Equanimity — The quality of being calm and even-tempered, having composure, neither elated nor depressed, especially in difficult times. Other words that come to mind are unattached and undisturbed. Ancient Vedanta writings teach us that equanimity is our true, eternal nature, apart from time and space, where we rest in the peace and love within our hearts. While equanimity is well-defined in Indian teachings, yoga, and Buddhism, it is spoken of in other spiritual belief systems as well. St. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13: 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.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba said:
Let the wave of memory, the storm of desire, the fire of emotion pass through without affecting your equanimity.
What would it be like, if the ups and downs, the constant shifting of good and bad, did not disturb your innermost being? What if you could see all of these changes as nothing more than fluctuations on a screen, as a kind of movie playing out before your eyes? For most of us, this is a tall order. Life and death, good and bad, war and peace, love and hate — all present the challenges. They threaten our inner perch of peace. Many of us come crashing down, falling from that safe perch, and we are gripped in the drama of these life events. Some are able to hold forth with steady wisdom most of the time, then something dramatic occurs and our resolve crumbles. If we know to honor and respect ourselves, setting aside harsh judgment, and remembering the ways of being human, we can safely fly back to our perch and remain gentle and kind to ourselves. We fell off the perch for a while. So what?
In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says to the seeker, Arjuna:
One who leaves behind all desires emerging from the mind
and is content in the Self by the Self is said to be one of steady wisdom.
Swami Gurumayi adds the warning to “Watch your own mind. Never allow it to get carried away by either pleasure or pain. On the path of yoga, the path of steady wisdom, the path of right action, steady wisdom is crucial. Become a sage of steady wisdom.” In our “steady wisdom,” we discover a safe retreat. We can rest there with trust. But be sure to note that equanimity does not mean losing compassion in life or letting go of helping others, but instead, all that we do comes from a place of peace and calm within.
To imagine that we can control the constant changes that occur around us is a hopeless desire. We can only control our reaction to the “play” of the world, resolving to be the quiet space in the midst of stormy seas. Sometimes the buffeting of the winds is too much, and we react. The pain of grieving, the unfairness of events, the fear for out future, or the depths of depression become too much to bear. But yet, most of us recover our equanimity even if it takes time to do so.
My yoga students have an expression. They say, ” I fell out of the boat.” The story goes that we are all rowing the boat across the sea of samsara, across the sea of the world of change. At the helm of the boat is our spiritual guide, it may be a guru or Christ, Allah or God or, (how about this ?), you, as the Self. Every once in a while, we find the turbulence has become too much and we fall, headlong, into the sea. There we flail about, fear drowning, sharks circle us. We doubt that we will survive. Then, as if by some miracle, a hand reaches down. Out savior (or maybe even our Higher Self) pulls us up without any effort at all, smiles upon us, and puts us back to our rowing position, safe and on a steady course.
Seneca, the Roman philosopher, wrote:
Happy the man who can endure the highest and the lowest fortune. He, who has endured such vicissitudes with equanimity, has deprived misfortune of its power.
So take pause before taking an action or speaking a word. Are you responding and acting from a place of equanimity? This is a worthwhile practice and the benefits grow greater day by day. And, on those occasions when you act or speak in haste, forgive yourself — then look to return to your pleasant and calm perch of peace. It will be there for you without fail.
With love and namaste, Deanne
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