What is Equanimity
Equanimity is a deep and subtle skill. Equanimity is an art fundamental for conscious living. It gives rise to emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Many students confuse it with apathy and inexpressiveness or the suppression of emotion. Over time, through your own practice, your understanding and feeling for equanimity will deepen. Equanimity is not a specific experience. Rather, it is the way we hold or relate to experience.
Equanimity is a trust in the present moment. You trust that this moment is exactly what it needs to be. You trust that in future “present moments” you will also have this trust, allowing you to be present now. Equanimity is an attitude of “Everything is perfect”. This reflects the mental attitude to experience. This does not mean we don’t work to change things in our experience to improve our relative happiness. It means we have the ability to switch into this state of equanimity at will when we feel ourselves overly tense/resistant/anxious. Equanimity is unconditional love. A love for the experience you are having right now, without comparison and without any conditions attached to this love (needing to change experience in order to love it). In love we find gratitude and humility for being able to experience anything at all. Equanimity feels expansive, open and relaxed. When we resist there is a feeling of contraction. Not only inside the body but it seems our whole field of awareness becomes smaller and tightens around whatever it is we are resisting. We cannot see the bigger picture. Equanimity gives rise to clarity Equanimity is a non-skewed and non-biased way of perceiving reality. While our view of the world always remains subjective, Equanimity allows us to perceive with less imprints and conditions of past experience and unclouded by any mind states of craving/aversion.
Three ways to develop your equanimity 1. Intentionally create equanimity in the body. Resistance to experience is accompanied by habitual tensions in the body. E.g. clenching in jaw, belly, upper back area when you don’t like something that's happening. Relax these as you notice them arising. You may not be able to fully relax them but the intention to do so helps a lot. It feels like a ceasing of doing (non-doing) rather than doing something to relax them. 2. Intentionally create equanimity in the mind. Create an attitude of welcoming experience as it is, without wanting to change it. Loving, unconditional acceptance. 3. Noticing spontaneous states of equanimity. Sometimes we just spontaneously drop into higher states of equanimity. Notice when these happen and what they feel like and you will become more exponentially familiar with equanimity.
Analogies for Equanimity Effortlessly flowing downstream in a river rather than struggling upstream. The river is your experience at this moment. Friction in a mechanical system. Friction is energy lost due to resistance to experience. In a system free of friction, experience flows seamlessly. Mother Nature is equanimous. Within nature, everything comes and goes, dies and gets born. Life force energy creates and destroys. It is all part of the process. Sometimes its rainy, sometimes sunny. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” - Lao Tzu
Equanimity vs Apathy/Indifference/Boredom Apathy feels like a disinterest and numbness of experience. In apathy there is boredom and an aversion towards experience. Equanimity is the opposite by which you are fully riding the wave of experience both in its highest highs and lowest lows with non-attachment and unconditional love. I have found that as I train my equanimity my openness to life and desire to experience life more fully and intimately has increased dramatically. Equanimity is not in-action If everything is already perfect and we fully accept it, does that mean we never want to change anything and just become completely passive? No. Equanimity is a radical permission to experience senses and explore this life with freedom. Equanimity gives us the freedom to shape our internal and external behaviour and lifestyle in ways that are not governed by unhealthy habits and fears. Equanimity gives rise to action rather than reaction and because we understand ourselves better, we understand others better and act more compassionately because we realise we are all in the same boat. Equanimity towards non-equanimity Often, you will have judgemental thoughts in your mind about not being equanimous. Let those thoughts come, let them be and let them go. This is completely normal. Accept any non-acceptance present. This will help ease the compulsiveness to think.
Implications of Equanimity Equanimity applied to unpleasant sensations allows you to relax into them and they flow through you without friction, resulting in less suffering. Equanimity applied to pleasant sensations allows them too to flow through you without friction, experiencing them more fully rather than contracting around them and delivering a deeper experience of them. Feelings and emotions experienced with equanimity helps transform them from subconsciously driving and distorting behaviour. Instead, they fulfil their purpose of motivating and directing behaviour.
Sources: Young, Shinzen. “What Is Mindfulness?” Shinzen Young, 30 June 2016, https://www.shinzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/WhatIsMindfulness_SY_Public_ver1.5.pdf.