Finding balance in troubling times

by | Nov 15, 2023

The world we live in is facing an unprecedented set of challenges. In the past few years, we’ve had to adapt to new ways of living and working, while also dealing with the emotional toll of isolation, loss, and uncertainty.

Despite the many advances in technology and science, our world is still grappling with age-old problems like poverty, inequality, and violence. At the same time, new challenges are emerging, raising important questions about how we adapt to fast-paced changes in technology.

In this context, it is more important than ever to cultivate the qualities of resilience, empathy, and wisdom, and to find ways to support each other through our shared struggles. Did you know there is actually a term that encompasses these qualities? It’s called equanimity.

What is Equanimity?

Equanimity is the state of being calm, composed, and even-minded in all situations, whether good or bad. It is the ability to maintain a sense of inner balance, regardless of what is happening around us. Equanimity is an essential quality that can help us navigate through life’s ups and downs with grace and ease.

Many of us may be familiar with the serenity prayer:

“May I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

These words beautifully encompass what it means to embody a sense of equanimity.

If we are not familiar with it, equanimity in the face of the pain and hardship of others can seem heartless or detached. But in its true essence, it is anything but. Equanimity does not create boundaries around compassion, rather it knows what it can and cannot affect, and can remain loving all the same. 

Equanimity is not about being emotionless or indifferent. It’s about being present with all of our emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, finding a sense of balance and harmony that allows us to navigate through life’s challenges with greater ease, and respond to people and situations from a place of wisdom and compassion.

How to Practice and Cultivate Equanimity

It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of daily life, but by practising equanimity, we can regain our composure and find a sense of peace within. In this article, we will explore some practical ways to practice and cultivate equanimity in our lives.

Mindfulness

One way to cultivate equanimity is through Mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation, or just simply ‘being mindful’ involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment.

The power of Mindfulness practice lies in its ability to help us develop a conscious awareness of our thoughts, emotions and sensations, and fully accept the arising and falling away of conditions as a natural and normal part of life.

The more we practice and understand Mindfulness, the better we are able to observe our thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. We can then develop the ability to respond to difficult situations with clarity and composure, rather than reacting impulsively.

A common misconception is that we need to stop thinking to meditate or practice Mindfulness. What is helpful to understand is that thinking thoughts and telling stories is what our brains do best, the mind secretes thoughts like the lungs breath air. While the by product of Mindfulness is often a less busy mind, what we are really cultivating with Mindfulness is awareness. When we catch ourselves thinking a thought, and we can recognise it simply as a thought, a memory, a fantasy, or whatever form it takes, we are being mindful.

By practising Mindfulness, we expand our container of awareness. This does not happen overnight, this is why we call it a practice. The more we do it, the more we can expand our awareness to make room for all our joys and sorrows, all the things that come and go from our lives, while still maintaining a sense of balance and ease.

Gratitude

Practising gratitude is a powerful way to cultivate equanimity in our lives. When we focus on the things that we are grateful for, we shift our attention away from negative thoughts and emotions. We begin to see the world through a more positive lens and develop a more balanced perspective. 

Rather than always striving for more, gratitude helps us to find joy in the present moment and invoke a sense of abundance and contentment.

When we focus on what we have, rather than what we lack, we become more aware of the richness of our lives. This can help us to develop a greater sense of equanimity, as we learn to accept and appreciate the ups and downs of life. 

Acceptance

The practice of acceptance is a powerful tool that can help us cultivate equanimity. Acceptance allows us to let go of our attachment to outcomes and expectations, which can often lead to disappointment and frustration. Instead, we learn to embrace the present moment without judgment or resistance, and trust that everything is unfolding exactly as it should be.

Through acceptance, we can also develop a more compassionate and empathetic attitude towards ourselves and others.

When we stop resisting and judging, we can open our hearts and minds to the experiences of others and gain a deeper understanding of their struggles and challenges. 

By cultivating acceptance, we can learn to embrace the full spectrum of human experience and develop a greater sense of equanimity in our lives

Self-reflection

Self-reflection is the process of examining one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviours to gain a deeper understanding of oneself. It involves taking a step back from the busyness of life and turning inward to observe and analyze one’s inner experiences. Self-reflection can be a powerful tool for cultivating equanimity because it allows us to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and regulate our emotions more effectively.

By engaging in self-reflection, we can begin to identify our triggers, biases, and patterns of behaviour that lead to emotional reactivity. If we are able to gain a better understanding of our inner workings, we can develop greater emotional awareness and make more intentional choices about how to respond to challenging situations. 

There are many ways to practice self-reflection, including journaling, meditation, and seeking support and feedback from others. These processes can help us cultivate a more balanced and calm state of mind, even in the face of stress and adversity.

Compassion for self and others

Compassion and empathy are often used interchangeably, but they actually have distinct meanings. Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling and share their experience. Compassion, on the other hand, means ‘I care, and I want to help’. The be truly equanimous, we need to be compassionate to both ourselves and others. If we lean too far one way or the other, we run the risk of becoming either codependent where we consistently place the needs of others above our own, or self-involved where we disregard and disconnect with the experience of others.

When we approach ourselves and others with compassion, we develop a deeper understanding and empathy for the struggles and challenges that we all face. This understanding helps us cultivate a sense of equanimity and allows us to be present with our own emotions and the emotions of others without getting caught up in them.

Compassion also allows us to respond to difficult situations from a place of wisdom and kindness, rather than reacting impulsively. When we extend compassion to ourselves and others, we create a safe and nurturing space. We learn to embrace the full spectrum of human experience which can help us to develop a greater sense of equanimity in our lives.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cultivating equanimity is a powerful way to find balance in troubling times. By practising mindfulness, gratitude, acceptance, self-reflection, and compassion, we can develop the ability to respond to life’s challenges with greater clarity and composure. Understanding and cultivating equanimity can transform our inner state and the way we experience the world around us.

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