There are at least a few terms for it. Steadiness, unruffledness, equilibrium, calm, evenness are several. Diverse leaders encourage it–Buddhists, psychologists, coaches in sports, certain bloggers. Diverse leaders discourage it–mob instigators, dictators, cult heads, certain bloggers. But what is it really? Psychology Today provides a good working definition: Equanimity means to “maintain mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.”
I have thought of myself as an even-keeled person for most of my life. I believe I give that impression to others generally. Maybe on a scale of one to 10, I score above five. I like to be the calm in a storm, the voice of reason in conflict, the cool head in an emergency. Yet, recent exercises in introspection have enlightened me to the reality I am being buffeted about on the waves of emotion that run amok through my mind. So although I’m one who encourages equanimity, I recuse myself from being an expert or shining example on how to walk the walk. Let’s take a look at some better sources of equanimity wisdom than me. I can at least shine a light on those who can show the way.
“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” – Carl Jung
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” – Marcus Aurelius
“There are two types of seeds in the mind: those that create anger, fear, frustration, jealousy, hatred and those that create love, compassion, equanimity and joy. Spirituality is germination and sprouting of the second group and transforming the first group.” – Amit Ray
“All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” – John Wooden
How to Develop Equanimity
Development of equanimity is a subject of great depth and potential complexity. Teachers of spiritual and psychological principles are good people to seek for guidance. With the limited space designated for this post, I’ll point in a few promising directions and pass along some sensible tips to get you started.
There’s a remarkable article on the National Institute of Health website, Moving beyond Mindfulness: Defining Equanimity as an Outcome Measure in Meditation and Contemplative Research that gives insight into equanimity with an in-depth scientific perspective, recommending meditation, yoga and other contemplative practices while acknowledging the value of clinical studies to measure the efficacy of such activities.
Psychology Today’s website has an article titled 4 Simple Ways to Replace Hostility With Equanimity which could be very helpful when applied.
The Yoga Journal published an article online called “Calm Within” and subtitled Cultivate equanimity in the face of life’s ups and downs, and find deeper access to joy. This piece informs the reader of different perspectives on handling adversity. It also tells of how to get started on a practice to cultivate equanimity.
Suggestions: 1) Train your mind as a way to overcome excessive emotional reaction. There are various methods to get control, including meditation, developing good eating habits, focusing on one task at a time and maintaining that focus, acknowledging feelings rather than denying them, engaging in creative activities, being mindful to the present moment, and getting into focused physical activities such as sports and games; 2) Realize or remember you are not your mind. Your emotions are not you. You exist apart from those and you reside in a place of peace and calm.
What Do I Know?
I know I’d be better off to be rational under all circumstances. That makes me realize successful emotional self-control is essential. Life presents many surprising situations that will challenge our emotional equanimity. I need to develop mentally and spiritually to the point I’m not caught off guard in whatever provocation. I should keep my balance and gracefully dance to whatever tune the Piper plays.