Equanimity is the soul-trait that allows us to stay calm in stressful situations. This is not about inner peace or tranquility. It is not about avoiding stress. Equanimity is the ability to remain calm and mindful in stressful situations. When we lose our heads we cannot make clear, mindful decisions. Without equanimity, we cannot look beyond the present moment or imagine different feelings that lie in the future.
The Hebrew for equanimity means “calmness of the soul” (menuchat ha’nefesh). As always, we must balance this trait. Too little equanimity and we become hysterical and reactive. Too much of this trait and we become ambivalent or oblivious to the world around us. Our self-interests rise to the top when our mind is agitated. It is only when we are calm that we are in alignment with our highest self and highest good.
A surfing Kabbalist might tell us to ride the wave but do not get crushed by it or swept away. The message is to keep surfing, for if we feel that we have reached complete spiritual peace, we have lost our way. It is only when we still feel called to explore and grow that we are still on the path. It is when we catch ourselves losing our temper, or losing our balance on the surfboard that we know we are growing.
Practice equanimity this week simply by paying attention. When your temper starts to lead the way, take a few deep breaths and if possible step away from the situation. Stuck in traffic? Turn up the radio and sing. Stuck on hold? Put the phone on speaker and shift your attention away. When you find yourself disengaged from the world around you, do the same thing. Step away. Breathe deeply. Connecting with nature or someone you trust will help in both cases. Practice this for a week and let me know what shifts in your world.