ACHIEVING EQUANIMITY (A CALM AND EVEN MIND) - ISSUE 13 - DECEMBER 2020
Hi Guys. In this December 2020 blog (Issue13). I would like to contemplate the subject of equanimity.
As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views and opinions of past and current masters, sages, mystics, gurus, philosophers and generally wise people. I also tap into all the worldly belief systems, religions and philosophies to draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom. These blog posts are designed for those interested in mindfulness and will only give you a taste of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there.
What is equanimity? Equanimity is defined as an evenness of mind, especially under stress. It is interesting to note that the word is derived from "aequus," a Latin adjective meaning "level" or "equal and "animus" ("soul" or "mind") which equals a balanced mind.
Achieving equanimity is even more desirable if you tend to dwell too much on the alarming events currently happening in the world (or unfortunate to have a personal trauma or an emotional event happening). If somewhat disoriented by all these things, you can easily forget that most things are beyond your locus of control and you can quickly lose your connection with the present moment (i.e., as the saying goes; the past is history, the future is a mystery, all you have is the present moment – right here and now!). You cannot live in the past or future, so, make presence great again! Our minds are full of clutter and most of it is trivial rubbish which hinders our vision and connection with our world.
The suggested approach to achieve equanimity in yogic or other eastern philosophy starts firstly with learning to connect to your conscious awareness (Self-awareness – the source of your being or true Self) though various means. This particular aspect may be a bit too spiritual for some but can be achieved especially if you have a desire or inkling that there is more to life that meets the eye, by seeking out relevant texts, teachers and spiritual/wellbeing guidance to assist in your understanding (or as stated, just to sate your curiosity, as not everyone is ready to undertake such a spiritual journey).
In a practical sense then, what it really means is that you should pay attention to what is going on in your mind (and your body) and if you are dwelling in the past or future, let go of those thought patterns (they are really only illusions and mental constructs anyway) and go for the quality of the actual moment itself.
All of this is an ideal of course and it doesn’t just happen if you simply turn your mind to it. You will need to be vigilant and proactive to situations that could knock you off balance, as it were. It also doesn’t mean you are just going with the flow. In this equanimity mindset there is still capacity to be passionate about things and being more able to respond thoughtfully and in the right way, rather than reacting in a ‘knee jerk’ way.
The old saying “seize the day” also known as ‘carpe diem’ is not realistic as you cannot seize the day, only the moment – this actual moment. ‘carpe punctum’ is the appropriate Latin phrase which means, seize the moment and the contemplation of which may provide you with a deeper insight into the nature of your mind.
In a general sense, this also means recognising that we are all the same, with the same wants and needs, and cultivating a non- reactive, non-judgemental version of yourself (including no self-judgement). It is also important to recognise our connectedness with everyone – i.e. there is no them and us.
The renowned author of the book ‘Letting Go’, David Hawkins MD PhD, wrote about practical mechanisms by which to remove the inner blocks to happiness, love, joy, success, health and, ultimately, Enlightenment (i.e. includes awakening to the higher self). In that book he made reference to Carl Jung (Swiss Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology) and reflected that Jung had said: “that the healthy personality is equally balanced between work, play, love and an aspect of personality called spirituality, which we could also define as the search for meaning and value.”
Dr Hawkins went on to say that; “These investigations bring inner upsets but also moments of acceptance and peace. There are moments of intuitive understanding which beckon us on to continue the quest, to find out if there is anything beyond just the physical and material world and its ever-changing phenomena.”
While Dr Hawkins wrote about letting go and the inner mechanisms of surrender, many others have written on the subject, Ajahn Chah (Thai Buddhist monk, author of ‘A Still Forest Pool’) said, “Do everything with a mind that lets go. Do not expect any praise or reward. 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”.
The Bhagavad Gita (ancient Sanskrit Hindu teaching 3 to 5 thousand years old) has many such references to one who is able to face the ups and downs of life with equal ease. The Gita basically denotes an allegorical battle between the ego and the higher self with Krishna (Supreme Soul/Godhead) teaching Arjuna (representing the best but flawed aspects of humanity) how to defeat the ego forces and discover his higher Self. Krishna also explains to him his duty to himself and others and the ultimate meaning and order of existence.
In Chapter 2 shloka 5 of the Gita there is reference to “He who is everywhere without attachment, who is neither shaken by adversity or prosperity, his wisdom is established” (transliteration). Many such references indicate that such a person of even mind, who is free from doubt and who has conquered his senses including the mind, becomes eligible for being one with Brahman (Supreme Cosmic Sprit – the Absolute – the Source) and Self realised.
In considering equanimity we should not forget the ancient (and modern) Stoic philosophers who virtually lived by this creed. Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher) said;
“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.” – Interpreted from the ‘Meditations’ (i.e. notes to himself)
The Buddhists also have a take on equanimity – the expression the “middle path’’ or the “middle way” refers to the Buddhist understanding of practical life, avoiding the extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence. They also consider a view of reality that avoids extreme positions relating to eternal life/eternal things and that of the view of no life after death. The Buddha is said to have refused to get involved in speculations regarding the universe. He stated very clearly that the problem facing mankind is not in his past or his future but in the immediate present.
Modern stoic philosopher Brian Johnson (American Philosopher/CEO of Optimize & Eteamz – author of Philosophers Notes) calls all this the “equanimity game.” The rules are simple:
1. Notice when you’re off-balance, for example, when you start to lose your patience with the traffic, your spouse, or a colleague, then;
2. See how fast you can catch yourself and correct yourself, (smile and take a number of deep breaths) bringing yourself back to equanimity. (i.e. out of fight or flight mode and back into relaxation mode).
He says that, “We should catch ourselves whenever we get thrown off-balance by some event, and then get back to a balanced mind as quickly as possible. Setbacks will always happen, and we won’t always be our best. The wise person knows this, and their main goal is to recover as quickly as possible. Like a punching ball that rebounds whenever you hit it”.
My current Yoga Teacher has an interesting take on all this. She recently used a cycling analogy to assist us with smooth and consistent breathing (Pranayama) during the Yoga session, where we progress through the poses (Asanas) using an appropriate ‘gear.’ She indicated that whilst the average cyclist would use the gears to ride up a hill and coast down the other side, a more accomplished rider keeps an even pedal rhythm, continuously using the gears on the bicycle (i.e. in the zone). It struck me that this analogy could be used to maintain an even pace through daily life in an equanimity mindset (i.e. not reacting but responding smoothly to situations) and riding through the ups and downs of life - she agreed).
“Equanimity arises when we accept the way things are” (Jack Kornfield – American author and Buddhist monk) – born 1945.
“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” - Albert Einstein (German born theoretical physicist) – 1879 – 1955.
“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn (American Emeritus Professor of Medicine and founder of the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine) - born 1944.
“If you learn to create the right climate in your body, mind, and emotion, your health, wellbeing, and joy – everything will be taken care of.” – Sadhguru (Indian Yogi and author) – born 1957.
“I don't mind what happens. That is the essence of inner freedom. It is a timeless spiritual truth: release attachment to outcomes, deep inside yourself, you'll feel good no matter what.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti (Indian speaker and Author) – 1895 – 1986.
If you experience uncertainty – learn to respond rather than to react. Sense your own inner power, strength and self-worth.
You cannot control everything - be flexible and allow greater self-exploration so that your beliefs and views are a result of your own choice (be proactive, equanimity should not be an indifference to your situation).
Bounce back, accept things as they are – work on any irritations – develop equanimity (acceptance is a higher degree of letting go).
Be present. Make presence great again!
Try meditation, try yoga.
Compiled by Baz Shirley. Contact:
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And all my previous posts on: mumbojumbonews.com*