Individual and Couples Work with Michael

Eight Ways to Greater Equanimity in Your Life

choices compassion equanimity michael lee michael lee yoga Aug 18, 2022

Tired of the roller-coaster days that life brings? Are your emotions pulled this way or that from almost every turn of events, often surrounded by primarily unhappy people? Wishing you were somewhere else? You are not alone. 

Equanimity is a state of being where relative calm exists even amidst chaos.  It’s not found by burying your head in the sand or giving up.  And it’s not an abdication of your caring and your responsibilities.  Rather, it is a more powerful way of being. With equanimity also comes the agency that enables you to engage in life in ways that create desirable outcomes productively.

Creating equanimity usually requires a change to your inner and external narratives. These days, if you are experiencing stress, your narrative probably includes two elements - concern about current (and recently past) events and their implications for the future. You have a sense of losing the life you once knew it or aspired to and a fear of the future world we are creating.  In some ways, you feel helpless and pessimistic and don’t have a lot of control over what is being created.

It is perfectly understandable. We live in an uncertain world, and our news is scary when we see the polarization and turmoil of our society played out before our eyes. And of course, we often think about it and want to talk about it.  

Thich Nhat Hahn was interviewed by writers for Enquiring Mind in San Francisco in 1998 and asked about the possibility of peace in our world.   Included in his response was the following paragraph.

There is a tendency in us to be individualistic, a seed of egoism, but that isn't all that is in us. There is also the seed of togetherness, the desire to help and be kind to others. If you are exposed to an environment where the negative seed is watered every day, that seed will grow and manifest in your daily life, strongly. But if you have the chance to be exposed to a loving, understanding environment where the seed of compassion, of lovingkindness, can be watered every day, then you become a more loving person.

Reading this prompts me to ask this question. "How do I nurture and water the seeds of compassion and lovingkindness in my immediate environment?"  Thich Nhat Hann always believed that peace is possible even amidst conflict. And his narrative was always filled with love and compassion, even for his enemies.

I know from experience that taking on this kind of mindset and the inner narrative that goes with it, is not an easy task for me. I have had to seek and find ways to support the process. What I’ve learned in the four decades of developing the Phoenix Rising Method in Yoga Therapy is that there are eight key themes that, when brought to focus in life, do make it easier to shift into a narrative more conducive to equanimity.

  1. Befriending Your Body

Engage your body awareness to both ground yourself in present-centered awareness and also to get a “second opinion” from your body on your interpretation of the reality of your situation.  Your body does not lie, is always in the present, and has the wisdom to share with that will supplement and sometimes even override what your mind tells you.  Learn how to use your body as your best friend 

  1. Awareness

Expand your awareness to include your “inner” awareness and your interpretation of your external reality.  Check-in from the inside. What is your “felt sense,” and does it match your narrative?  Sometimes your inner awareness can be a purveyor of equanimity with the simple affirmation “everything is OK here”, especially when making a problem more significant than it needs to be.  To engage this, I suggest taking regular 20-second awareness breaks, especially in the “heat of the battle”.  Pause, breathe, and check in for just 20 seconds.  And repeat when needed.

  1. Acceptance

What is going on within and around you?  Can you be present to all of it and at least accept that this is so, even if it is not pretty?  Acceptance does not mean acquiescence.  It simply means accepting reality and being with it rather than reacting to it.  Again, 20-second pauses help while asking, “what is going on here?” and answering honestly.

  1. Choice

In every moment, there is the power to choose.  Not just your response but your way of being, your posture, your demeanor, and your caring and compassion.  Ask yourself these questions, What choice is wise here?  What choice will help create equanimity here, not just for me but for those around me?  Don’t forget to reference your body’s felt sense as you ask.

The next four themes are more long-term developments rather than short-term tools.  These are supported by your commitment to your growth and through regular practice.

  1. Discernment

This is about “knowing the difference”.  No two situations are alike, and no single choice will always work.  It takes a lot of personal practice to discern wisely at the moment.  The capacity is built over time by engaging daily embodied awareness and attention-focused practices as found in yoga and meditation.  

  1. Truth

When you navigate life in alignment with your “true north,”  the narrative you engage will be more supportive of an equanimous state.  But first, you must discern your “true north.”  Again this knowing is more a product of practice than something you can just manufacture through your mind.  Over time when you are “dropped in” in body and mind, your truth will reveal itself and infuse every thought, word and action.  Be patient and engage in practices that help you “drop in.” 

  1. Truth in Action

Once aware of your true north, it becomes natural to live your life from it as a reference.  You will know your alignment with it from your embodied felt sense.  This in turn, becomes your barometer in every life activity.

  1. Flow

Flow results from the clarity that comes from the practice of the prior seven themes.  Here you experience more of your life feeling content and, at the same time, purposeful and fulfilling.  Life will still present difficulties, but you will not suffer from them as before. Like the river, you will easily flow around the rocks and obstacles.  And that is equanimity.



Join my list for free downloads, articles, practices and classes

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.