Living with equanimity

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

portrait of Gwen Randall-Young
•  Equanimity (Latin: æquanimitas having an even mind; aequus even animus mind/soul) is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. – Wikipedia

When I read this definition, I chuckled. It says equanimity is remaining undisturbed in situations that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. This means becoming unbalanced. However, what made me laugh was when I interpreted “lose the balance” to mean losing the rest of their mind.

I think both interpretations are correct. When ego reacts, we certainly have an unbalanced view of things and we lose access to that part of our mind that holds our higher self, our wisdom.

In Hinduism, the idea of equanimity refers to being in pure awareness. When there is no distraction or attachment to thoughts, there is equanimity. It is only when the sense of discrete identity is dissolved that we transcend the apparent duality and see oneself in union with all and everything.

Equanimity is a fundamental tenet in Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and many other spiritual traditions. It allows for a clear mind, wisdom, freedom, compassion and love. It brings gentleness, contentment and charity.

When we free ourselves from inordinate reactions to people and situations, we can experience equanimity. Therein lies the challenge. Ego mistakes its perceptions for reality and projects intentions onto others and then judges them.

Take the example of a driver being cut off by another. Ego thinks he did it on purpose and must think he owns the road. Equanimity says, “I have inadvertently cut off others myself; it’s okay.” As Wayne Dyer used to say, “Bless him and move on.”

Sometimes people will spend years nursing old hurts and blaming others for their unhappiness. It is like they are trapped in a cocoon in darkness, unable to fly free.

I had a client who talked about a woman at work who was “mean” to her and a co-worker. She could not give examples of truly mean behaviour, but said it was mostly “her tone.” She and her co-worker spent a lot of time commenting on every one of her behaviours.

My client was angry and wanted to “stand up” to her because she didn’t think she should “take it” anymore. I loved the aha moment when I pointed out she was projecting her childhood feelings towards her big sister on to this woman. I also reminded her she too had a “tone” that was often annoying to others. She laughingly agreed.

I reminded her it is never about the other person, but always about how we interpret and react. An inordinate response to things is the opposite of equanimity.

She really understood. It truly was a moment of insight and transformation. The icing on the cake was at the end of the session when she checked her phone. The “mean” woman had noticed she had left work early and texted plaintively “You left me!” thus indicating she liked my client and missed her.

My client had been blind to this because she projected her own story onto the other. What have we possibly been blind to? Can we learn to see with equanimity?

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca, and ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook.

Leave a comment

*