jusummerhayes

Equanimity

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

equanimity (n.)

c. 1600, "fairness, impartiality," from French équanimité, from Latin aequanimitatem (nominative aequanimitas) "evenness of mind, calmness; good-will, kindness," from aequanimis "mild, kind," literally "even-minded," from aequus "even, level" (see equal (adj.)) + animus "mind, spirit" (see animus). Meaning "evenness of temper" in English is from 1610s.

I'm not ignoring the events (in the UK at least) of the last few days — see here and here — but I'm not inclined, save for the odd 'like' on Twitter, to add my voice to the cacophony of people who, rightly and understandably, will consider the handling of the Covid19 pandemic a massive betrayal of trust, where there is clearly one set of rules for 'us' and a different set for Mr Cummings and presumably those Ministers, including (of all people) the Attorney General, who have so publicly backed him.

Instead, and as misplaced as it may seem, I want to touch on something that feels more apposite to my safe harbour in these troubled times and, no doubt, the many more to follow; namely, equanimity. 

Above, I've given you the etymological definition but the dictionary will tell you it means: 

a calm state of mind and attitude to life, so that you never lose your temper or become upset.

You might think this a cop-out. Is it? It might be, but then again, from almost a lifetime of giving in to or succumbing to my angry, melancholic and repetitive thoughts, I now see, more than anything else, how that's drained me of life. This one precious life.

The thing is, we're all troubled by troubling thoughts. Sorry, that's a little tautological. What I mean is that we all have thoughts — some good, some bad and some just meh. They arrive unbidden, we ruminate on them, we stir the pot some more and then, normally, start speaking said thoughts, and before long, if we're not careful, we appear to become our thoughts. 

OK, I'm assuming this in using the Royal 'we', but from personal experience, I know that if I give succour to my thoughts, before long I can be dragged down to places that are very hard to escape. Bloody Black Dog!

Instead, I've learnt, and am still learning, to open my heart, to let go and accept everything as if I'd chosen it. 

The last bit of the sentence needs a bit of explaining. 

Simply put, as soon as I understood, by checking assiduously on my personal experience, the absence of free will and choice — despite, in some circumstances, it appearing otherwise — it became much easier for me to accept this moment, which is after all the only we'll ever have. So, I've got some shitty thoughts. Fine. I didn't ask for them, and it's pointless waving a magic wand wishing them away. They come, they go, some stay but it's just the way I'm wired. If all I do is try to change them (as if I could!), push them away or, stupidly, accept their supposed truth, I'm going to find myself in a whole heap of trouble.

Instead, and if it's helpful, I now like to think of myself a bit like the person jumping out the plane that Chögyam Trungpa so vividly described.

“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.”

Of course, that's scary. Being willing to let go completely, not knowing where you'll end up. But of course, when there is no ground...?

I appreciate that my experience is just that and I'm certainly not advocating, as it might appear, that you read anything into my words, but I am saying, always, that you should go to your direct experience and ask yourself what you understand about your thought-driven world and why (amongst many other things) you're not able to hold a place of equanimity. You might say, I don't want to be calm. I like being angry. That's fine. But then again, having lived in that space for a long time, I realise now how much of my life I've wasted arguing with things that really didn't matter — not then, not now.

Anyhow, if all this talk of equanimity leaves you feeling a little cold, a little less willing to explore what life has to offer, again, that's fine — it's actually more than fine but I hope you get my drift — but for me, the place of equanimity is where I prefer to be rather than on high-alert looking for a place to expend my emotional and spiritual energy.

Blessings and much love, Ju

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