This week the reminders were flying around my house. August has been that way for a while. We’ve been sending kids to college for the last eight years. Goodbyes suck and tempers seem to flare as we regroup. Tensions mask the wounds of letting go.
So this week dinner chat ran the gamut: retelling of summer antics… and there was talk about equanimity. Equanimity has been biting my ankles for a few years now. When my husband began talking about it, I glazed over. Now it’s moved in and has its own room.
Equanimity—being in the world without being affected by it. It may sound like detachment, but it’s far from that. Having equanimity means accepting your reality—whatever it might be-- without judgment. It’s easy to you find yourself in a circumstance you don’t like or that you judge negatively and to automatically try to resist it. This internal fight against what has already occurred—as if fighting could change your reality—is what creates the most suffering.
What?? Well, it means that when you get a flat tire—you have a flat tire. Ranting, rage or regret will only prolong your plight. No amount of angst will re-inflate that tire. So having equanimity in that moment would mean allowing yourself to feel any negative feelings you have and then letting it go… Letting it go so you can then be present in the next moment… to take care of fixing the tire and literally move on. It’s acceptance of what is. Surrender.
I, who can be quite the passionate reactor, could really benefit from a little equanimity in my life. I might find more peace. I might find more energy to create. I might be a happier me.
At yoga on Tuesday night, I found equanimity. I was excited to practice with my daughter and my husband, so we set up our mats together. When my teacher, Altin, entered the studio, he announced that everyone on my side of the studio needed to move to the other side –compressing the studio in half. He randomly began picking up mats and placing them in the other half of the studio. I resisted. But after three attempts to stay put, I capitulated with some irritation. I was separated from my family and closer to the yogini next to me than I wanted to be. There was a collective grumbling in the normally silent studio. Someone next to me whispered, “Why is he being a control freak?”
Surprisingly, once I reset my mat and looked in the mirror, I was smiling. I found some humor in everyone’s quick agitation—mine included. The reality was that this new studio arrangement let us better absorb the collective energy of the group. Altin was more able to provide instruction and it was actually an excellent class— and in my move, I let go of other resistance I had had in my practice. I became more open to what Altin had to say. My mind had symbolically opened in a new way. Such a simple shift and yet I felt so freed up and full.
And then I woke up Wednesday morning. Boy was I wrong!! Just as quickly as I had found my equanimity the night before, I had lost it: a washing machine installed incorrectly and customer service calls that lasted more than 90 minutes. I let myself stew in negativity and frustration. I couldn’t get beyond the mess up to see that no amount of complaining would change what was done. My negativity lasted into the evening—it wasn’t a pretty sight.
It’s a wake up call when your 21 year old says, “Mom, you talk a lot about equanimity, but you aren’t practicing it right now.” Busted.
In reality, who knows if events are really good or bad…what if they just are?
One of my favorite parables from The Tao of Daily Life is called Misfortunes & Blessings. It’s about an old man in ancient China who loses his horse one day. His friends express sympathy because he will likely never see the horse again. But the old man thinks, “Who says this cannot be some sort of blessing?”
Months later the horse returns with a companion and the townspeople marvel at this good luck—this time the old man suggests, “Perhaps this might also be a misfortune.” Soon after, the man’s son falls from the horse and breaks his leg—again the old man is consoled for his “misfortune” by those quick to judge the events. The man again wonders could there be a blessing in this?
Not long after, the young men of the village are summoned to battle, and all but the old man’s injured son go to war. Nearly all of them perish—yet his son, nursing his broken leg, survives back home. And so this journey unfolds—and the goodness of life in each moment was there for the taking.
It’s easy to want to label our lives as full of bad or good luck, blessing or misfortune. But in reality, it is what it is. We can accept it and find the blessings in any given moment or we can resist and suffer in our desire to change or focus on what has already occurred.
Giving up that illusion of control, surrendering, finding equanimity sound pretty good to me. Getting there is another story. I am a work in progress (and always will be). My family reminds me when I go off track. Sometimes I find myself smiling in the mirror and finding joy in a yoga class when I least expect it. Other times I am on hold with customer service and seething in a sea of suffering. My awareness is my teacher.
And that is as good as it gets right now. So if you are in transition, going through change (and in an interesting life aren’t we always in transition?), I wish you to find some equanimity in your life. . Not perfection. Not control. But the ability to accept what happens and appreciate what it might bring. Wishing you peace. Namaste’