Equanimity is inner peace. Equanimity is being calm in the eye of the storm. Equanimity is non-reactive. The element of Equanimity is distinguished from the element of Peace by its inner focus, whereas Peace is about Peace-making, outside of ourselves. With Equanimity, we can have inner calm, even with an absence of Peace outside of ourselves.
As a Soul-Caliber element, Equanimity pervades a person’s way of being (once it is captured and once it is remembered, that is). To capture the essence of what Equanimity is, imagine souls that are out-of-body, transcending time, connected to Divinity, radiating Love and Bliss and being in Truth. As to what may unfurl around a soul in this state, it is safe to say that the above attributes will remain as constants. As to how souls may react to what unfurls in their midst, the reaction will inevitably be to remain that which they are─ Divine. A soul is neither lured by nor caught off guard by any temptation of the moment. For the soul, there is always a bigger picture and way of being that transcend the current situation. In this manner, Equanimity equates to the innate Wisdom of the soul and the Divinity that resides there.
Here on Earth, Equanimity is about tapping into this sense of soul-calm Wisdom and being able to “just be.” It is also about removing the obstacles to being able to do so. With Equanimity in place, we establish a clear playing field or a clean slate from whence we can better manifest our other Soul-Caliber elements of Truth, Bliss and Love, in contrast to chaos and emotional reaction. From this place of being, we can tap into other spiritual elements of our choosing as well.
On a day-to-day basis, Equanimity impacts how we react and respond to what occurs around us or to what bubbles up within our own minds (yes, we are often in a state of reaction to our own thoughts, too). When we are acting with Equanimity, we may sometimes have no response or reaction to what happens; we may simply accept what is occurring or what has occurred as what is, not giving it weight or charge. Indeed, much occurs during the day for which no reaction is warranted.
This does not mean that having or experiencing Equanimity means you’re not allowed to have emotions. Emotions are natural. They need to flow and move out of us. With Equanimity, we notice and feel our emotions. We just don’t necessarily react to them or allow them to drive some reaction from us. We can sit with them and therefore actually better let them fully manifest and be felt. With an inner calm, we can then discern any greater meaning or insights the emotions might have for us, such as noticing patterns of reaction that might necessitate healing work. Many emotions are fleeting and don’t stand up to the simple test of observation. They quickly fade as unimportant, unnecessary or inaccurate in some fashion.
Equanimity will help us to pause before we react─ and with this pause, we can shift our focus inward before reacting. When we do this, we may discover that many possible reactions will not survive the process. With Equanimity, we moderate our responses to other people’s behavior. Along the same lines, our reactions may be filtered by other spiritual elements like Wisdom, Humility, Respect, Forgiveness, Reason, Non-Judgment, Empathy, Gratitude, Acceptance, Justice, Peace and Love. All of these elements are more accessible because a calm state of Equanimity existed within us beforehand for them to rise up and play a role (instead of us being lost in a flurry of emotions typical of our often overly-reactive, wandering monkey-minds).
With Equanimity, we mindfully carry inner Peace wherever we go. It is “portable Peace.” We will still encounter drama, conflict, noise, trouble and pain in our lives and these events may still impact us within. With Equanimity, we are Mindful, of what is occurring; we do not let a ripple in the flow take on additional charge or significance. We weather the drama that may be playing out with our calm intact. In this manner, Equanimity allows for a constant state of Mindfulness to interplay with Body and Soul-based Wisdom so that Heart and mind are united in restoring Peace with each of life’s twists and turns. Equanimity is “calm restored,” always keeping us close to the Divine and not separated by the chaos within and without.
“If you let yourself be blown to and fro, you lose touch with your root. If you let restlessness move you, you lose touch with who you are.” -Lao Tzu
Equanimity is being “chill,” by which I don’t mean to imply a laid-back manner or a state of apathy. As it equates to Equanimity, being chill is about being alert and involved, yet even-keeled, composed, non-reactive and calm even “in the eye of the storm.” Being chill implies the Equanimity of being comfortable in our own skin and being at Peace with our own company. At the same time, it doesn’t imply that we are emotionless robots. Being chill implies having a certain level of emotional intelligence whereby we still have (and quickly process) unpleasant emotions. Yet we can choose to bask in and enjoy pleasant emotional states over them.
At the very least, being chill means not mean letting your life be run by anxiety, worry, anger and other distressing emotional states. Many people in a world are run by these states, so much so that anxiety has become something of an epidemic (it is the #1 reported mental health issue in the United States). These states of being will tend to snowball as they foster one knee-jerk reaction after another, exasperating an already chaotic way of being. If not healed, we can spend our lives bouncing around like a beach ball, which isn’t fun for anyone in the long run.
Equanimity is a natural state where our soul can be accessed once we clear away that which disrupts and blocks our inner peace. As a chill person might say in a world rife with anxiety and worry, “Life is too short. There is too much Joy to be had to be anxious.”
Being truly chill down to our core and living a life of Equanimity is not easy for most because it involves more than a few puzzle pieces. Overall, what we want to do is to set up a scenario conducive to our “truly chill nature” so that it can naturally bubble up on its own.
In order to do this, we have to sort out anything that might be blocking this natural state. When we get down to being chill, remember that other treasures (i.e., other aspects of our Divine nature) will bubble up as well, and other spiritual elements will be more readily accessible.
Some areas where people can get started in reaching a state of being chill and in accessing a general launching pad to inner peace might include the following:
- Slowing down in general: We have to hurry, hurry, hurry less, less, less. We have to take a bite out of any addiction we might have to busy-ness. We have to multi-task less and single-focus-task more. We have to de-clutter our lives in terms of schedules, obligations, even relationships. We need to walk slower, eat slower, drive slower. Rush, Rush, Rush? No, No, No.
Picture your Equanimity as a still pond within your Body. We don’t want it to swish around a lot. Slowing down is one of the first things you can do to keep your pond still.
- Calming the monkey-mind and self-care: God gave us a brilliant, problem-solving, creative tool called the brain. But the brain is a double-edged sword. It has a tendency to wander about randomly when not otherwise consciously engaged or suspended in “neutral gear.” The monkey-mind jumps from thought to thought, worry to worry, chatter to chatter when not directed to do otherwise. These thoughts, in turn, spur on emotions and Bodily reactions. The ego kicks in, seeking to impress and judge others and control circumstances. As time goes by, we as humans become reactive and even subservient to these dynamics. A certain internal chaos develops that we grow accustomed to; this chaos, however, separates us from our natural state of being chill, i.e. from our Equanimity.
Meditation and Mindfulness can play a large role in calming the monkey-mind. When we calm the mind, we learn how to calm the Body; a calm Body contributes to a calm mind and vice versa. We have inside of us what might be called an over-zealous flight-or-flight (or freeze) defense system that was designed to save us from the real dangers of prehistoric times. These days, however, it gets set off by threats to our ego and by the daily challenges of survival such as paying our bills, making appointments, etc. When the fight-or-flight response gets kicked in, the monkey-mind is sent spinning with thoughts, worries and anxieties. And when the monkey gets started in this way, it sends the Body into fight-or-flight mode.
Equanimity can serve to override our fight-or-flight system when it is acting in an overzealous manner. Within our Body there is a turn-off switch to “fight or flight” called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve can most effectively do its job by slow, rhythmic breathing like that associated with conscious breath work (see Breath Element), yoga or Meditation.
A self-care regimen for the Body is also crucial in order to respect this wise-gift vessel and so that it may operate with prime efficiency in regulating our responses. Through Freewill and Mindfulness, we can exercise discernment over bodily drives like hunger and sex drives, which might otherwise disrupt our Equanimity.
- Making Peace with the past: This is easier said than done for many and may require a plethora of Healing work tailored to one’s needs including (but not limited to) trauma- focused counseling and Body work, Acceptance, and Forgiveness. Most of us carry around emotional wounds and trauma from our past. These wounds can run our lives in ways that we may not even be consciously aware of. Inner turmoil can be ever-present because of un-reconciled wounds that can spin our monkey-minds into action and can manifest as tensions and other reactions in the Body.
We may reach adulthood with deep, unconscious imprints of inadequacy still present on the hard drives of our psyches. Such profound wounds will tend to disallow Equanimity within us as we seek to soothe these pains with a myriad of methods, including maintaining a chaotic mindset so that we don’t have to feel the pain associated with the original wound. We can let ourselves be too busy to feel by continually bouncing around between daily conflicts and dramas.
The poet Emily Fragos said, “Give up all hope for a better past.” This is generally true, yet I propose that we can actually make it better through Acceptance and comprehensive Healing work. We can work to heal the wounds of the past so that they do not affect our daily way of being in the present and into the future. We can approach Equanimity so that we can recognize and process the emotions that trap us in the past and so that Equanimity can be present in our lives on a regular basis.
One specific obstacle to Equanimity is what I call “constant striving.” This relates to both calming the mind/ego and Healing the wounds of the past. With constant striving, we are forever seeking external validation from others as to our worth and value. Coming from a place of unconscious inadequacy due to some childhood wound, we may have little tolerance for uncertainty so we attempt to control our surroundings and the outcomes of all our endeavors. We are literally in a state of feeling inherently inadequate and, at the same time, we attempt to mask this feeling. When we are “constantly striving,” we are trying to hold life together in a manner that pleases others or social convention. In this case, both Healing, Meditation and Mindfulness work may be helpful.
Another issue related to the wounds we may carry regards speaking up for our needs as a matter of self-respect. Many carry the belief that “my needs don’t matter,” brought on by any variety of invalidating circumstances common to many childhood histories. It is impossible to carry such a wound and still have inner Peace. We have to engage the same powers of Healing and Mindfulness to heal these wounds and carry on with a motif of personal Respect and Love while maintaining personal boundaries at the same time.
- Spiritual practice: Spiritual practice is another very important part of the general recipe for Equanimity. We have to have some sort of consistent and honored spiritual belief system that addresses the fundamental anxieties of being encapsulated in a Body in this world. In the introduction to this book, I outlined “The Five Umbrella Anxieties” that tend to hang over our heads on some level, either consciously or unconsciously and whether we like it or not. To recap the Introduction, the Five Umbrella Anxieties stem from these fundamental questions and statement:
- Who am I?
- What is life about?
- Must I Die?
- What happens when I die?
- The Earth is finite.
A personal spiritual belief system (and among those systems, I include atheism) will often serve to address these anxieties for many people and can contribute to inner peace for them, often in a very major way. I recommend that individuals develop their own spiritual belief system that they can live by, one in which they have personally ferreted out via trial and error and which they are constantly reviewing and revising as greater knowledge and life experiences occur. If participation in an organized religion (preferably one that is not fear/shame-based and dictatorial) helps a person achieve this, so be it. As long as true Equanimity is being approached, then this kind of participation can be part of a person’s Healing work.
In addition, any cognitive dissonance relating to one’s spiritual path must be reconciled in order to attain true Equanimity. Cognitive dissonance is a lack of internal Peace that results from attempts to maintain two conflicting principles at the same time. In the context of religion, for example, there are religions that preach an overarching principle of Non-Judgment, yet at the same time they may single out specific members of society as abominations or somehow unworthy of Divine reward. Members of this church may experience some form of cognitive dissonance─ and subsequent lack of Equanimity─ until that apparent conflict is resolved or Energy is consistently expended in some manner to hold it at bay.
Discerning our own spiritual path versus just bouncing around from one belief system to another or blindly adopting someone else’s belief system is a key life task. When we discover what works for us spiritually, we will have a solid base from which to operate through life’s most profound anxieties and we can naturally find Equanimity.
- Living our Truth: Lastly, living our Truth contributes to Equanimity. At the same time, attaining some level of Equanimity can also help us to discern that Truth. There is a real chicken-and-egg relationship between the two. In living our Truth, we have touched base with our Divinity and found our mission, role and identity here on Earth. We are comfortable in our own skin. We know who we are and how we are to serve others. To not know that, or to suppress it in some manner if we do know it, results in dissonance, imbalance, tension and lack of inner Peace, i.e. a definite lack of Equanimity.
The not-so-secret Secret of Life just may well be this: to be your True loving self, with discernment of that self as a unique expression of Divinity. Living life in this way constitutes a living Holy Grail of sorts that, when found, offers up Equanimity, Peace and many other gifts.
“Nowhere can humanity find a quieter and more untroubled retreat than our own soul.”
Managing the Energy of our Body involves being cognizant of when we are moving towards Equanimity or away from it— towards chaos, conflict and stress. Within this process, we want to watch all of the different kinds of Energy interactions we subject ourselves to─ from what we put into our Bodies and the activities we engage in to the media we take in and the company we keep. We have to discern what serves us and our state of Equanimity and what does not. Sometimes we may have to engage in the stressful, short-term task of letting go of that which does not serve us in order to have greater peace in the long run.
By being Mindful and managing your Energy in this way, you will begin to cultivate a peaceful inner world. That inner peace will, in turn, attract similar energies. What’s more, eventually that inner world of Equanimity and Truth will begin to impact the outer world as well.
Discriminate between what gives you peace and what disturbs you. Whatever is better, follow that. -Papaji, Sri H.W.L. Poonja
Acceptance vs. Resistance
Acceptance of each and every moment exactly as it is a key skill that can lead to Equanimity. Acceptance does mean agreement with what is happening but rather an acknowledgement of the reality of the situation. To not be in Acceptance is to be in resistance, which is not conducive to Equanimity. It is a stressful Energy. By first accepting each moment, we can then achieve Equanimity that will lend itself to action to actually change a situation if desired, instead of futilely attempting to will what is really happening away.
“Peace (Equanimity) is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is rather than as you think it should be.” -Dr. Wayne Dyer
A Special Note on Praise
The focus of Equanimity is often on dealing with situations of conflict and stress in a calm and centered way, yet it also has to do with maintaining balance and being even-keeled at all times. With Equanimity, we are careful not to be swayed by neither scorn nor praise. To be swayed by praise often disregards Humility and allows hubris and self-importance to take hold. We might feel good about praise on a very superficial and egoic level, but true Equanimity is disrupted by relying on it. Self-importance disrespects the Divinity of everything else around you. Self-importance also disrespects the True source of whatever brought on the praise, which is also Divine.
“Even as a great rock is not shaken by the wind, the wise man is not shaken by praise nor blame.” -Buddha
Emotional intelligence (EQ) relates to our ability to be aware of our emotions as they occur, i.e. whether we process them and respond to them in a mature way or give in to knee-jerk reactions to whatever situation, or stimulus, has occurred. From this foundation, EQ then takes into consideration our ability to be perceptive to the emotions of others, pick up on social cues and engage Empathy. When we have a “high EQ,” we know what triggers our emotions and we pick up on what triggers the emotions (negative or positive) of others. We also are able to “self-soothe,” i.e. restore calm within ourselves. Proponents of EQ say that if we can soothe our own selves, then we can help to soothe others as well.
EQ is integral to maintaining Equanimity, and the good news is that EQ is considered by many within the psychological and educational fields, as well as by many spiritual leaders, to be a skill that can be developed largely through the practices of Self- Awareness and Mindfulness.
I was once a high-level bureaucrat in city government (City Manager). I was the top dog of the organizations I worked for, and I headed all administrative projects. My team and I managed all local services, such as the police and fire departments, public works, building, planning, parks, finance and so on. We had multiple “bosses” in the form of elected officials, employees of varied professions and skillsets, special interest groups, employee unions and, always, a select group of very active and involved citizenry.
In this position, there was always a crisis-de-jour (sometimes several at once), be it real or imagined. I mean that quite literally— we could have a large fire, a major sewer pipe break, an employee discipline issue and a controversial land-use permit issue all arise on the same day. There was great potential for total chaos at every turn, and the most difficult of these situations always arrived on my desk. I quickly learned that a major part of my job was to take whatever crises were at hand and “de-crisify” them.
To “de-crisify” an issue, I’d take a look each aspect of the situation and evaluate it for immediate danger and impact. Next, I’d help temper our response to the issues so as not to react in a knee-jerk manner and create panic. Finally, we would apply appropriate rational analysis and utilize the expert staff available to us to formulate hypotheticals of all possible responses (including not responding) and analyze the financial and other impacts of those responses. All of this information would then be evaluated in the context of everything else going on in the city, and in light of overall priorities and limited resources.
This process was enlightening because it always brought up new information. Often, what seemed like simple fixes were far more complex than we originally thought. Many constraints and limitations would become known, and new, creative solutions would arise. As a result, many alleged “crisis” would be given a whole new perspective while others were determined to not be crises at all and simply fell by the wayside to be dealt with later.
This process might sound like a no-brainer for any professional organization. I am suggesting that it applied to what can be the storm of our emotional reactions in our personal lives. Every day we have the opportunity to “de-crisify” situations. We temper our responses. We apply analysis (Reason), and other spiritual elements such as Wisdom, Intuition, Acceptance, Respect and Empathy. We bring new perspectives to the crisis at hand. Many crises will become manageable or simply fall by the wayside as not crises at all, when we take the time to slowly and thoughtfully address them in this way. “Inner peace is the key: if you have inner peace, the external problems don’t affect your deep sense of peace & tranquility.” – Dalai Lama
God Comes Up
The spiritual teacher and mystic Meister Eckhart said: “Do nothing, God comes up.” This is the central function of Equanimity. With Equanimity, we calm the mind, shed ego, let go of attachment to earthly matters and, low and behold, God comes up. Through quiet and Stillness within, our Divinity becomes known and we gain access to all the good stuff that comes with that; we get heaven on earth. Why would we want this scenario not to happen? Maybe we avoid it by holding on to chaos, conflict, drama and the latest gossip because we feel unworthy of our own Divinity on some level. At some point, however, acting (or reacting) in a particular way becomes a choice. Equanimity at least gives us an opportunity to see what is occurring within, making our choices known. Why choose chaos? To deny the natural bubbling up of Equanimity that comes with a quieted mind is to deny our true nature and the Divine.
“You find peace not by rearranging circumstances of your life but by realizing who your are at the deepest level.” – Eckhart Tolle
Many elements can combine to support Equanimity, although the individual alchemies between the specific aiding elements may vary. That said, Meditation and Mindfulness are key players in supporting the calming of the mind. Healing and Self-Awareness contribute to coming to peace with our past and recognizing how lack of peace in this regard might be manifesting in our present. The process of healing our past that allows Equanimity to bubble up within also serves to ignite self-Love and Respect.
Living our Truth is central to supporting Equanimity since to live away from our Truth is naturally an unsettled state for anyone.
Acceptance of each moment as it is, with implication of agreement (see Acceptance element), serves to take us out of resistance, a major disruptor to inner peace.
Solitude helps us to match our inner peace to an outer peace that may exist, especially when we practice Solitude in Nature.
Non-Attachment supports Equanimity in allowing us to let go of attachment to busy-ness, drama, addiction and conflict (which may have become our normal state if we don’t address it).
Simplicity serves to make our life less burdened with obligations that may keep us busy and away from inner peace.
Stillness helps us to slow down in order to be more peaceful and see what may be disrupting our inner Peace.
Light keep us like a feather and less burdened by over-seriousness that could, at times, conflict with Equanimity
- Meditate daily for a minimum of five to seven minutes per day in conjunction with an overall practice of Mindfulness directed towards consistent awareness of what is happening in one’s own mind and Body, especially in reaction to stress and overall mind/Body reactions at any given time during the day.
- Make the practice of Conscious Breathing (see Breath Element) a priority, in support of Mindfulness and as a matter of embracing a slowing down of life’s pace overall.
- Make special note of what situations appear to trigger abrupt emotional responses on your part, especially those of anger, anxiety, impatience or stress. Practice noting your feelings in such situations, taking deep, full breaths to slow down all reactions in order to consider all possible responses, including letting go or non-reaction. Celebrate the beauty of taking a pause before reacting in general. It may help to write a list of such situations so that when you see one on the horizon, you can remind yourself of what responses may be triggered and prepare to combat or suppress those prior to the event— i.e., practice deep breathing before going somewhere where there will likely be a confrontation, you will have to make a public speech, and so forth.
- Review “trigger” incidents daily and reflect on how you may have responded differently. Engage Healing work with professional help if needed to resolve the origins of emotional triggers. Ask others close to you, if they were present, for their input on how you handled certain tough situations. They may notice changes in your facial expression, voice, and so forth that you are unaware of in the moment of distress.
- Take on a mindset of “Energy Management” and be aware of all Energies you engage in and absorb during the day. This care might include monitoring all inputs of media, purposefully engaging in activities that slow down the body and/or create peace and being with people who serve to support your Truth.
- Consider how you might “de-crisify” conflicts and problems that arise during the day. Resist knee-jerk reactions and reframe situations with rational thought to consider all possible solutions, including non-reaction.
- Spend time in Nature as an integral part of your life. Just sit there; be like a rock in the desert (but be sure to Breathe).
I Am Pure Energy, Peace at this Moment, Courageous and Willfully Present.
I Know Who I Am; I Know My True Essence, Divine.
May Peace Flow Over Me; May Peace Reside Within Me; May Peace Be My Nature.
Let Me Hear My Truth.
I Am Perfectly Me.
I Accept What the Universe Has Planned For Me.
Please Let Me Release All That Does Not Serve Me.