MSC for creating balance: Equanimity 

stone scalesSession Details - October the 3rd, 2016 - Discussion around the meaning of the word equanimity. We connected with MSC practices that foster a greater sense of acceptance, calm and balance amongst the ever changing nature of life. 

Living a balanced life - Jane O'Shea
I know that point of balance,
I swing past it all the time

I feel equanimity to be an evenness of mind, calmness, feeling a sense of balance in one’s life. This state of balance is most important during difficult period of life. It brings to mind the advice Pema Chödrön often gives of feeling into being the landscape not the weather.

Mindful self-compassion (MSC) practice enables us to respond to difficult moments in our life with kindness, care and understanding, a way of ‘attending and befriending’ all that is in our world, with that balance of wisdom and compassion. This is quite a different approach than the usual one taken in our busy lives of the ‘subtle aggression of self-improvement' (Bob Sharples), which can add to the stormy weather.

The three key components of self-compassion are self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and balanced, mindful awareness. Kindness opens our hearts to suffering, so we can give ourselves what we need in those difficult times (dropping the struggle). Common humanity opens us to our essential interrelatedness, so that we know we aren't alone, and we understand the fact that being human means making mistakes and having our glitches. Mindfulness opens us to the present moment, so we can get a wider / clearer picture of our experience, thus learning to accept it with greater ease. Together they comprise a state of warm-hearted, connected presence.

Equanimity in ancient traditions:
The virtue and value of equanimity is extolled and advocated by a number of major religions and ancient philosophies. In Buddhism it is one of the four great virtues, sublime states or immeasurables: equanimity, compassion, loving kindness and empathic joy. In Christianity equanimity is seen as this evenness of mind that is vital for living a life of charity, contentment, compassion and wisdom. Similarly in Islam it denotes the peace that comes from total surrender and acceptance. In the Baha'i Faith equanimity is seen as the important quality that allows human beings to free themselves from inordinate reactions to the changes and chances of the world. In the Yogic traditions it is seen as fruition of a practice of balancing the body, mind, heart and spirit via meditation, asanas and breathing practices (pranayama).

Equanimity practices:
Connecting with your compassionate inner voice
Feeling into that voice that you would offer a dear friend who was experiencing stormy weather in their life. Connecting to the tone of voice and the comforting, understanding and reassuring words you would offer them – and offering them to yourself.

Here are some words of inspiration from Paul Gilbert on this topic: We can start with ourselves by spending a few moments each day thinking about how we would be if we were at our compassionate best - how we might think and act. Then we might imagine a difficulty in our lives, breathe deeply and slowly, create a friendly inner-voice tone, and imagine how this wise, compassionate part of us might address the problem. It doesn't take long to see that this will be different to how the angry part or anxious part of us might respond - that side that often just emerges and wants to control us. The more we take time to imagine ourselves at our compassionate best, the greater the chances are that we will become like this - more rooted, caring and assertive. Compassion is not just about kindness or 'softness' and it is certainly not a weakness - it is one of the most important declarations of strength and courage known to humanity. It is difficult and powerful, infectious and influential. And, crucially, is perhaps the only universally recognised language with the ability to change the world.

Quiet eyes
Through taking time to pause, coming to stillness and silence we gain the clarity of contrast, perception via “quiet eyes.”

“Stillness is calmness - physical, psychological and spiritual harmony. A person who remains true to themself walks quietly and unperturbed through all storms of life. If you ask them: "what is stillness? "They will answer: "it is the great mystery. The holy stillness is its voice". And if you ask: "what are the fruits of stillness?" They will answer: self- discipline, true courage, endurance, patience, dignity and respect. Stillness is the cornerstone of character.”- Santee-Sioux elder

Coming to our sense of hearing, feeling the openness of the soundscape all around, the vast and edgeless space, where sounds simply arise and pass through your awareness, this can assist with cultivating a sense of all things in transition. It can also assist with deepening our interconnectedness.

Mindfulness practice can bring greater awareness of the universal law of all things in transition, changing, arising and passing though. The wisdom that can come with this understanding can lead to greater equanimity - linking our present day experience, whether wonderful or terrible to this underlying pulse of life itself, forever changing, in transition and not permanent.

I have changed my mind about a hundred things.
Effort in meditation is one example.
I used to think that to become free you had to practice like a samurai warrior,
but now I understand that you have to practice like a devoted mother of a newborn child.
It takes the same energy but has a completely different quality.
It’s compassion and presence rather than having to defeat the enemy in battle. - Jack Kornfield

Gratitude and contentment
To bring balance to the mind’s negativity bias focus on the grace of appreciation.

That’s all it takes - Jane O’Shea
Believe it or not everything you need is already here,
All your needs are already waiting to be met.
All that is asked from you is to stop seeing where it is not,
then turn to see where it is already.
To have the courage to believe, even when everything inside you,
screams at you to keep doubting.

To cultivate thoughts of gratitude that will keep your heart strong.
That’s all it takes to have everything you need.


Comments from participants

“I have found mindfulness a key to coping." 

“Learning to be still and kind to myself." 

“Tina, you create a safe, warm, kind and comfortable environment."

“I could not think of a better way to start my week." 

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