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What do you do when you lose your emotional balance? Listen to some music. Take time off? Take a vacation. Get away from the routine — the grind. Your friends tell you, you need to get away from it all. It’s so common isn’t it? You need that space and time and the distance to get your sanity back.
Some might say you need a big change, or you need to relax, or chillout. Not so helpful eh? A vacation can help in many ways, from breaking the chain of repetition to just being lucky enough to stumble into state of relaxation that lets equilibrium happen naturally.
Today’s topic is something called equanimity – the state of psychological balance.
From Shinzen.org: Equanimity is a fundamental skill for self-exploration and emotional intelligence. Equanimity comes from the Latin word aequus meaning balanced, animus meaning spirit or internal state.
A person loses internal balance if they fall into one or the other of the following contrasting reactions:
> Suppression — A state of thought/feeling arises and we attempt to cope with it by stuffing it down, denying it, tightening around it.
> Over-Identification — A state of thought/feeling arises and we fixate it, hold onto it inappropriately, not letting it arise, spread and pass with its natural rhythm.
We should ask why we’re holding onto it, suppressing it and not letting it pass. Do we let it and other positive feelings dissipate and then move on, lest we lose our balance?
One of the most valuable skills you can possess is the ability to manage your state of equanimity — to balance your emotions even as powerful desires/ambitions collide and generate friction and negativity from one’s environment.
There is no mention of common sense in this material. Shinzen.org presents this as a way of neutralizing negative thoughts and physical tension that robs us of our own joy and energy.
Every day we vacillate between pleasure and pain, disappointment and elation, or hope and fear. Just the normal cycles of everyday experience, yet in an artificial world, you might get a double dose of the bad stuff. That’s why people retreat to nature — to get away from the artificial problems and frustration.
I know, you’re pissed and vengence will make you feel better. Ahh, you better drop it.
Things that are out of your control can create unbalance yet we can refuse to hold onto concepts, values, and behaviours we don’t really want to be part of. We have that choice. Thus we have some control of how they impact us psychologically and especially, emotionally.
Whats the relationship to positivity? Equanimity doesn’t try to be positive or negative — it’s in between. Is positivity a foolish concept then? It’s a counter balance to negativity. But maybe positivity just sets itself up for the expected fall.
A State of Perfection
Left to our own circumstances and devices, we are perfect and always in balance. It’s our society of others with their own ambitions that creates our challenges. The opposition and negative energy they give puts us off balance.
Love and hate are the two opposing forces at work, yet love rarely throws us off balance, at least not immediately. But hate, like a corrosive has to be neutralized and not internalized for long. Besides understanding others negativity, we need to let that negative energy pass through us or off of us, like water off a duck’s back. It’s not really other’s hate that is the issue, it’s our sympathy for them and their hatred. We must let go of our sympathy for their attitudes and take a more balanced view of events.
The Balancing Act
Equanimity or psychological balance puts us back in control by giving us psychological tactics to allow negative energy to pass through us.
I was fascinated by Bill Dan’s rock balancing techniques when I spoke to him in Sausalito, California about 6 years ago. Now I understand
why. He was balancing something that is seemingly impossible — a bunch of odd shaped rocks. He had them stacked up 6 feet high.
I guess therefore, that even the most unbalanced person caught in the worst circumstance could conceivably achieve equanimity. But wow, that’s hard work! Isn’t it easier just to manipulate and control your environment? How much negative energy can we take in and let pass through us? You’ll feel like a seive!
Well, the equanimity scholars suggest that by letting the negative energy pass through, it is less likely to keep coming. I guess our detractors give up when they realize it’s not working, and they themselves have become sick and unbalanced. The law of Karma! What goes around comes around.
How To Achieve Equanimity
Not that one short blog post can help you master equanimity, but read what Shinzen.org says to do:
Developing equanimity involves the following aspects:
Intentionally creating equanimity in your body
Intentionally creating equanimity in your mind
Noticing when you spontaneously drop into states of equanimity
Intentionally Creating Equanimity in Your Body
This is essentially equivalent to attempting to maintain a continuous relaxed state over your whole body as sensations (pleasant, unpleasant, strong, subtle, physical, emotional) wash through.
So relax those extra tight muscles and frown lines. Forget behaving badly and trying to get vengeance on others and instead pay attention to your physical sensations.
Intentionally Creating Equanimity in Your Mind
This means attempting to let go of negative judgments about what you are experiencing and replacing them with an attitude of loving acceptance and gentle matter-of-factness.
In all the years I studied psychology, I don’t recall anyone discussing equanimity. I think they should have. Good luck with your own balancing act. Let everyone know what your greatest challenges are with yourself and the people who cause you misery.