Equanimity – a mind of calmness
Equanimity is one of the “four immeasurable minds” in Buddhism. It is the capacity to stay calm, especially in stressful situations. Feeling burned out, unable to stay calm sometimes? Practicing equanimity can bring a great source of energy and joy. Feel a perfect mental balance in any situation.
If you find the word “equanimity” difficult to remember, think about it as “equal minds”. My mind is “equally” calm in whatever circumstances, either it is joy or sorrows.
Equal minds when saying “No” (or “Yes”)
“Equanimity means to let go” (Thich Nhat Hanh). But does “let go” means saying “yes” to everything? This question has great implications for burnout folks like you and me. Since we have the tendency to say “yes” to a lot of things! (the reason why we were burned out!)
This week, my friend, after a meditation with us, shared that, sometimes, practicing the notion of “let go”, he found it difficult to say “no”. For example, there is an object of disagreement between him and someone. Should he “let go” of the object and let the other win?
The answer is very simple. Say no with equanimity! “Let go” does not mean letting go of the “object”, but more letting go of the “emotion”. In this case, let go can mean “yes” or “no”, given that our mind is filled with calmness from the inside.
The difference when we say “No” with equanimity, is that it’s a “No” without negative emotions. A “No” with a perfectly calm mind. A “No” with joy, love, and compassion towards the person we are dealing with.
Equal minds when faced with joy or sorrow
The same as saying “yes” or “no”, when we are faced with joy, or sorrows, our minds keep their balance. “The Buddha describes a state of equanimity, beyond joy and sorrow”, says Andrew Olendzki. When we experience pleasure, joy, or happiness, our mind is not attached to them. The same as when we have pain, difficulty, or unhappiness.
If you can practice this non-attachment, you will find yourself having no expectation about joy, nor fear about sorrow. How is it possible? Well, as explained by our Buddist teachers, “One does not push aside the things one dislikes or grasp at the things one prefers. The mind rests in an attitude of balance and acceptance of things as they are” (Gil Fronsdal and Sayadaw U Pandita). We accept all as it is.
You will see that this attitude brings mental stability. It’s a source of profound joy. It also brings a lot of ease in our relations with our children, our partner, our colleagues, our friends.
5 easy ways to cultivate equanimity in our daily life
Your next question will be: How to cultivate equanimity in daily life? Well, the state of “equal minds” does not arise easily when we start. It comes and goes. With a bit more of mindfulness, our mind can be a little bit more balanced, then will go off again. Practicing will make it strengthened day by day. There are 3 things you can do about it.
Meditation is the king’s way to equanimity. When we practice meditation, zazen, vipassana, or other disciplines, we first allow ourselves to be aware of our emotions. We know that we are joyful. We know that we are sad, or angry. And we can observe it. This is the first step to train gradually our capacity to equanimity. We should keep ourselves continually mindful in every moment, without a break.
Change our attitude
Being aware of our emotions helps us change our attitudes. Think about it. Will you be able to change all the people around you to suit what you want? I believe it’s a hopeless task. The only way to bring us peace is to change the way we think about them. If you are between the devil and the deep blue sea, the only thing to do is to change your attitude. As said the old proverb, “live and let live”. Next time, when you feel angry against someone, take a deep breath. Find immediately a better thought to think about.
Choose friends who stay cool
It sounds anodyne. But surrounding yourself with friends of positive energy can help you train yours. Positivity helps you remain more balanced when faced with difficult situations. Imagine, meeting a friend around a coffee who does not stop complaining about everything? I believe you’d prefer sitting with someone who is full of joy and optimism. Believe me, as social beings, we are influenceable. Joy and positivity are contagious. Why not practicing to be yourself a source of positive energy for your friends?
Nourish our well-being
Thich Nhat Hanh once said that “in order to be a home for our loved ones, we need to be first home to ourselves”. We can remain calmer when we are good within our own self. So take good self-care. Cultivate joy and happiness.
One reflection that can develop nonattachment is to regard all beings as powerful beings by themselves. For example your children. Believe in them. When you are worried and know you cannot do anything against it, believe they can manage themselves. As Jack Kornfield says, “I can bring love and compassion. But their happiness and sufferings depend on their actions”. This thought can bring you peace, and less attachment to your worrying feeling.
Equanimity – source of joy
Equal minds in any situation is a great state one should aim for. Equal minds when say “no” or “yes”. Equal minds when faced with joy or sorrow. You stand out! There are 5 easy things that help train equanimity. Mediate, mind your attitude, choose positive friends, take care of yourself, and train “non-attachment”. Try them out today, no time like the present!
Audio: 5-minute Meditation on equanimity by Jack Kornfield