Equanimity means being present in the moment, simply noticing what’s happening and then releasing it as the next moment unfolds. I like this simple definition of equanimity:
The art of letting things go.
We know when we’re in a state of equanimity because we feel it – calm, peace, ease, joy. It shows up on our face.
This is a picture of Zen Master, Tich Naht Hahn. What do you see in his face? He is 87 years old. Can you feel the serenity that emanates from him even in a static picture?
Now consider what’s showing on your face. How would you describe it? Radiant, open, relaxed, bright? Or perhaps lips pursed together, teeth clenching, brow pinched, eyes vacant and tired. Become aware of your face. What’s going on inside you shows up on your face. Now consciously relax your face – your jaw, your brow, your tongue on the bottom of mouth and teeth slightly apart. Notice a difference? Or try smile breath described here. In 10 seconds you can initiate a relaxing calm – inside and out.
I recently posted a new photo on social media and there was something in that photo that prompted people to comment. They said I looked relaxed and open with an inner glow, warm, sunny…that I had a different energy. It occurred to me that my contentment on the inside was showing outside. What had shifted? What was different? It was my conscious attention to choosing to let things go. To stop holding onto thoughts, things, people, feelings. Today I broke a favourite pottery cup. Disappointed? Yes. And it’s just a cup. Whoosh. I let it go. I’ve had company this week and didn’t get as much work done as I planned. Fretting is a choice. Whoosh, I let it go. I’ll begin again tomorrow. Through practice, we can actively choose how we respond in any situation, right in the moment. So often we don’t realize what’s showing up on our face.
Our tendency is to want to hold onto the ‘good’ and eliminate the ‘bad’. Trying to hold onto good means that when it passes, we can end up feeling down or disappointed. In trying to eliminate or avoid the bad, we actually hold onto it because we have so much attention focused on it. Remember, where our focus goes energy flows.
A client was having a bad week. He was grumpy for a variety of reasons and feeling tired as a result. He was trying to open a can of soup to have a quick simple meal but the can opener got stuck. While struggling with the can opener he slopped soup on his shirt which meant he was going to have to change. In that moment he remembered ‘feel your feet’ a tip I taught him to get present in the moment and be able to choose how to respond. When he did that, he was able to just let go of his frustration with the soup, change his shirt and carry on. What is really great about his story is that when he let go of the soup incident, he said he also released his frustrations and anger from the week and immediately felt calmer and more relaxed. His voice had a buoyant energy as he told me this story.
Perhaps the first step to achieving equanimity is to let go of our judgments of what’s good and bad. If we accept the moment with a calm, compassionate observing eye, then we can say “oh look, an unpleasant moment” – whoosh and let it go. Or, “oh, a wonderful moment” – breathe it in – appreciate it – exhale, whoosh and let it go. We become more content when we’re not holding, when we allow ourselves to let go and be present in the flow of life moment by moment. And the bonus, our face looks healthier, younger and vibrant.
What’s one thing you can let go right now? One thing you are willing to release into the breeze to free up blocked energy? Whoosh!