There’s been a word that has been in my path the past week: equanimity. Have you ever heard of it before?
I’ve seen this word in two of the books I’ve been reading lately. Then I found the word in an article I linked to from a blog I regularly read. And I saw the word in my Instagram feed the other day. Does the universe want to tell me something? Or does it want me to tell you something?
“Equanimity is full of love. It is a face of love. What’s unique about equanimity is that it helps balance the other three aspects of love so that we don’t burn out in our caring, in expressing the other aspects of love to others. It keeps us grounded. Without equanimity, our compassion can become compassion fatigue; we can outpour to an extent that we become exhausted or overly identified with the situation. Equanimity can help keep us resourced and in our center.” – Karah Jewel Lingo
The phrase “compassion fatigue” really spoke to me. It’s so easy to get caught up in my own pain, the daily suffering in the world, and the suffering in our own lives. Sometimes I feel like I’m pouring from an empty cup. Does it feel that way to you, too?
So many of my classmates have died in the last four years that I felt like I couldn’t hear about another one. When I would look at my Twitter feed and see that there has been another school shooting, I felt helpless. When I would see a screen shot of a hateful anti-gay post from someone I know on social media, I would get so angry I didn’t know how to cope with it.
“Equanimity means being with pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, in such a way that our hearts are fully open and also whole, intact. We can recognize what is true, even if painful, and also know peace. Equanimity doesn’t mean we have no feeling about anything; it’s not a state of blankness. Instead, it is the spaciousness that can relate to any feeling, any occurrence, any arising, and still be free.” – Sharon Salzberg
But since I learned about mindfulness, I could let a death or something truly horrible pass through me when I learned about it. I would go inside myself for safety and just be. It seemed like a miracle cure. DOES ANYONE ELSE KNOW ABOUT THIS?
I now realize I was practicing equanimity. But until recently, I had no idea it had a name.
Not every day will be a good day. There will be sadness, death, and people who are hateful. What I don’t need to do is take on everything. I cannot bear the weight of the entire planet on my shoulders.
Non-resistance is another part of equanimity. Basically accepting life as it comes and not forcing things. Take traffic as an example.
I used to get very angry when I was driving and ended up stuck behind a slow car. Most of the time, I would pass that car and keep going. Now, I just follow the slow car to get where I need to go. I don’t force things, because I think the car in front of me is there for a reason. Maybe there’s a crash coming up that this car is protecting me from. Who can say? I just let life happen instead.
This can also be useful if you’re stuck in a long line. If you lack patience, perhaps you should let your life flow a little more freely. Perhaps the line was placed in front of you for a reason?
I used to be really impatient and irritable. I used to be quite sensitive to criticism. I had the impression that I had complete control over everything in my bubble. I evolved into a totally different person after learning that I couldn’t.
I feel like the word equanimity has appeared to me three times in the last week to tell you about it. What you choose to do with it is up to you.
Here are some helpful articles:
This video is 45 minutes long, but I love Tara Brach and think it’s worth your time to listen to her.
And this is lovely, even though it has nothing to do with the topic at hand:
Have you ever heard of equanimity? Do you practice it in your life?