In last week’s post, I promised to tell you how I reached my current state of equanimity. First, I would like to give you a working definition of equanimity. Here is Wikipedia’s version:
Equanimity (Latin: æquanimitas having an even mind; aequus even animus mind/soul) is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.
For me, equanimity means:
I feel calm most of the time.
I can spend more time socializing and engaging with others without getting drained.
I sleep well.
I don’t feel tightness in my chest or stomach.
My emotions fluctuate but then return to a baseline comfortable state.
Things roll off my back easier.
I am more playful.
I am more patient.
I am more compassionate.
It doesn’t happen overnight
My current feeling of balance and composure has been simmering and building for over a year. It has its origins in practices I discovered almost ten years ago. My point is I’ve sought and worked at this kind of contentedness for a long time. I had to learn how to be open to it.
I also know this feeling of comfort and goodness will not last forever. Everything changes. Everything passes. New obstacles will topple my carefully poised assuredness. But I now know the bones or structure of equanimity. I can rebuild it again when needed.
Here are the key components of well-being.
Having time to pay attention and work consciously
I’ve said no to attractive opportunities in the last year. In the past, I’d jump on them because I was desperate for joy and distraction. Now, I find joy in what I already have. For example, I was asked to join the board of trustees for my church this year. I know I would have loved the position and its duties, but instead I left the time and space in my schedule for family. I’ve learned to find more joy in my time at home with my children and my boyfriend.
When I am not rushed from one responsibility to another, I am present with the space and people around me. That calms me and makes me more open to whatever arises.
I started seeing a therapist regularly (about every two weeks) last June. There is something quite freeing about being able to say whatever you feel. I have very close friends. They serve as amazing listeners and witnesses to my experiences but I still hold back from telling them everything. Mostly because I don’t want to burden them with my long-ass tales of self-reflection and inertia. My therapist is there for me, for that hour. I’m not burdening her. She wants me to share and move through everything I’m experiencing. I can tell her my deepest worries and shame without risk of her leaving our relationship. Our sessions have given me insight and a sense of peace. She helps me feel ‘normal’, supported and understood, which eases my mind and body.
I realize this topic may turn off some people. I’m going to advocate for it anyway because I think it is that important. I started doing yoga and gaining awareness about the breath and presence 18 years ago. Being in touch with my body internally, observing my thoughts and taking the time to quiet my mind, give me a sense of peace. I’ve trained myself to pause and take conscious breaths when I feel overwhelmed. Such a pause grounds me.
The real advances in my meditative practice took place just a few months ago when I started to meditate again daily. I’ve done 60 days of very consistent meditation. I’ve missed two days in the last 65. I believe the consistency is the key to the durable effects I feel from the practice. Every morning before anything else, I meditate. I look forward to it. It starts my day on a solid foundation. I gain clarity and calmness from breathing and listening to words of gratitude, focus and motivation.
Meditation trains my brain to notice distractions but return to a purpose. It relaxes my nervous system. It stops the runaway train of thoughts.
Fitness routine rebooted
I’m a staunch advocate for fitness. There are many benefits to it, such as improved physical health and mood boosting endorphins. We all know it is good for us, but we still put it off. I admit, my workout habits were starting to become afterthoughts. My thighs were expanding and my pants were getting tighter.
We had snow before Halloween here in Minnesota this year. That put an early end to my trail jogging. I started to do more strength training workouts inside. Over the last few years, I had put weights and strength training on the back burner.
I did a squat challenge for the month of October. Squats are amazing! A bonus of squats is they work your abdominals too. Between the squat challenge and the work I did with weights, I saw significant changes in my body. Results motivate.
I’m still doing squats every day (80+). They take me less time than one song on my iPhone. Feeling fit gives me energy and agility to do more.
I’ve added two communities to my life in the last two years. One is the church I joined last year. I’ve never met such an accepting and interesting group of people. They are kind, caring, supportive and fun! The church provides a space for me to give and receive. The other congregants have been some of the biggest champions of my book. I know there is always something I can do at the church, if I ever feel at loose ends. The environment and people are so positive I want to give back there as much as possible.
The other valuable community I’ve joined recently is that of the local elementary school where I substitute as a paraprofessional in the special ed. department. I feel purposeful there. I love the kids and the staff. They are familiar now and I am comfortable. I would like to work there more but I protect my other work and family time. See Having Time to Pay Attention and Work Consciously.
Introverts need community and belonging. So often, we focus on introverts needing solitude. That is important but so is connection. I would say connection has been the biggest boost to my sense of joy. It takes a village to raise adults too.
Probably the biggest contributor to my equanimity is my loving relationship with my boyfriend, M. Feeling loved is an incredible elixir. The solid connection we have makes all other relationships easier. Honestly, it makes all other work and life struggles easier.
M reassures and supports me 100 different ways every day. He makes me laugh. He makes me feel beautiful. He listens when I ramble on about work and kid stuff. He also makes it easy to be a loving partner to him. He’s a favorite friend I love to spend time with. Incorporating each other into our friend and family circles has been a breeze too. In fact, his friends and family are yet another community I’ve happily gained in the last two years.
Our relationship has given me an emotional security I haven’t had in a long time.
What it comes down to
These factors have created new neural pathways in my brain. My old ruts of I’m overlooked, I’m not valued, I am alone, I have to do it all myself and I am not deeply loved have been paved over with fresh synapse firings that say, You are seen, you are valuable, you are not alone, you belong and you are loved and cared for.
The feeling of stability and joy flows over onto everyone around me. They know they can depend on me. My composure helps them feel at ease.
How much equanimity do you feel? What do you need to feel at ease? What is missing? What is working?
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