Achieving Equanimity: Know Thyself

Maintaining spiritual, mental, and physical equilibrium is crucial to living a life that measures up with your true potential. (Image:  Pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
Maintaining spiritual, mental, and physical equilibrium is crucial to living a life that measures up with your true potential. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Maintaining your state of equilibrium spiritually, mentally, and physically is crucial when it comes to living a life that measures up with your true potential. In a world that constantly throws you into a state of chaos, equanimity is the key to not just staying afloat, but to also thrive in challenging situations. Essentially, equanimity is the state of mind where you are calm, composed, and resilient, especially in a high-stakes situation. It’s not easy for everyone to achieve this state of mind. In Buddhism, this is referred to as “Upeksa,” one of the four “sublime attitudes.”

The concept of Upeksa

Upeksa” translates directly to “looking over,” referring to the state of mind that comes with the power of observation. This “power” when practiced frequently provides you with a sense of inner peace that makes it easier to navigate through the tangled mess of everyday life.

According to BuddhistEnquiry: “We develop equanimity through be­ing mindful of our reactions to what the Buddha described as the eight worldly dhammas [phenomena]. The worldly dhammas are four sets of contrasting conditions that all of us are subject to at one point or another in our lives. The cultivation of equanimity involves looking deeply at our relationship to these eight conditions in life.”

Buddhist teachings talk of equanimity as a kind of armor against “Worldly Winds,” such as success and failure. (Image: Wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Buddhist teachings talk of equanimity as a kind of armor against “Worldly Winds,” such as success and failure, fame and disrepute, and blame and praise. To illustrate further, when you become used to being praised or experiencing an extended run of success, you tend to get arrogant and it can become difficult for you to make the right decision when the “wind” changes, as in a situation where you are being blamed for something that went wrong on your watch.

By practicing equanimity, your mind stays on even keel regardless of how your exterior environment operates. It gives you the ability to make clear and unbiased judgments based on what the situation demands.

The road to equanimity

Each mind is different, and so it’s hard to dictate a generic template to achieve equanimity. The key lies in practicing observance. You can start by observing what catches your attention and how your mind responds to it. Trying to “study” the path to a balanced state of mind is vague and most of the time ineffective.

The more effective method is to study the factors that cause you to lose balance and the triggers that affect your mind, positively or negatively. When you try to straightjacket yourself into the mold of your conception of what being equanimous is, you actually tend to achieve the reverse effect and instead of being equanimous, you become rigid, aloof, or complacent. When you have identified the obstacles on your path, understood them, and removed them over time, the state of equanimity that you achieve helps build the foundation for a way of thinking that is flexible, diligent, and compassionate.

Taking Baby Steps

When it comes to the actual act of developing equanimity, there are things you can practice and certain activities that you can apply yourself to.

According to contemplativestudies.org: “Meditation practice leads to becoming very observant of the present moment without becoming attached to it, and to becoming more open and accepting of events without conceptualizing them. These changes then alter the practitioner to better be able to regulate their emotions and to better understand the nature of reality.”

Meditation can be started as simple as closing your eyes and counting to 100. (Image: Wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Meditation – People who have no experience with meditation have the wrong notion that it’s a convoluted exercise that involves numerous steps and years of mastery to accomplish. Meditation can be started as simply as closing your eyes and counting to 100. Gradually, the more time you invest in it, the more you understand how to train your mind toward more complex techniques to achieve deeper states of meditation.

Detach yourself — In most stressful situations, you feel threatened and cornered because you place yourself at the center of your situation. When you disassociate yourself and take the position of an observer of the situation, you can find the clear chain of thought required to gain the upper hand.

Space out your response — Controlled and spaced out breathing can be the most effective method to gain an advantage over a stressful situation. Whenever you find yourself facing such a scenario, taking a step back and drawing in a deep breath is the best initial response. The more time you spend breathing, the more clarity you gain of the situation. It also helps to weed out any unnecessary emotional quotient in your response.

These are just a couple of activities you can start out with. Equanimity is not as much about finding a certain state of mind as it is about finding yourself. So start with investing time to understand your true self.

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