Practicing Equanimity

A few years ago, during a particularly rough patch in my life, while on my way to work one morning, a beautiful thing happened to me.

I had the radio up full blast and was singing along with Kathy Tricolli’s song,

A purple sky to close the day, I wade the surf where dolphins play.

The taste of salt, the dance of waves, and my soul wells up with hallelujahs.

We had recently moved back to Naples after a three-year stint in Branson, MO., and while the struggles were many, I was happy to be back near the water and “home.”

Stopped at a red light, the song ended and I happened to glance at the car in the adjacent lane. I saw a woman looking straight at me. The light changed and as our cars moved forward she raised her thumb in a gesture of approval; “Way to go!” she seemed to say and I just grinned back. We lost sight of each other quickly in traffic, but I pondered it all the rest of the day. In fact, I’ve never stopped wondering about it.

She couldn’t hear me with the windows up, but I am convinced she knew I was singing to the Lord, maybe even that my heart was troubled. The encounter was a mystery, but in that one glance we connected in the Spirit. Was that an angel sent to encourage me? I’ll never know.

That momentary connection was a turning point of sorts for me. The whole event – the music, the choice to sing when I could’ve just as easily been crying, and the woman’s approval – sealed something precious in my heart. And it’s this – practicing equanimity makes our journey so much more of an adventure.

What’s Equanimity?

Equanimity (noun) – mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation.

That’s as good a definition as any, but I like Joan Halifax’s better: “stability of mind that allows us to be present with an open heart no matter how wonderful or difficult conditions are.”

It’s juxtaposed to anxiety and stress. Equanimity is something

  •   required every day
  •   both a choice and a work of the Spirit
  •   a gift I give others as well as myself

My friend, Dr. Tom Hudson, a breast cancer diagnostician whose book Journey to Hope I edited, says it like this: “I choose to be at peace with things exactly the way they are right now.”

Instead of berating ourselves mid-morning with the thought I’m already behind with my tasks and I’ll never get my work list finished today, we can practice equanimity towards our work and ourselves. I choose to stand in front of whatever presents itself—beautiful or difficult—with an open heart and a calm mind.

Equanimity is similar to the practice of Otium Sanctum: “holy leisure.” It refers to a sense of balance in the life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves. We are called to pursue holy leisure with a determination that is ruthless to our Franklin Day-Planners.

If we learn the habit of equanimity towards ourselves, we can then easily give it away. That’s what the lady in the car was doing. Because she was present and awake, she was able to pick up a signal from me, a complete stranger, and affirm it. What a gift!

Influencing the Atmosphere Around Us

As followers of Jesus Christ, this is our calling. If we could but see and understand that one simple act on our part might influence someone else for years to come, wouldn’t we be more likely to do it? It’s been sixteen years since that encounter, but I’ve never forgotten it, and here I am passing it on to you. Just a little bit amazing, I think.

How are you transforming the atmosphere around you? Are you practicing that calmness of spirit that characterized the One you follow? As a son or daughter of the kingdom, you have this power residing within.

Let’s remind each other to use these gifts and not bury them under bushel baskets of anxiety, stress, or fear. The world around us needs our equanimity.

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Comments

  1. An incredible peace came over me when I read this. I just came from an appointment that took 4 hours out of my day, I was behind on my work and I don’t get paid when that happens, I need to start my night job and I checked all three of my email accounts and said “Oh goody…something from Cathee.” Everything else would just have to wait. I am glad I began to practice equanimity even before I knew what it was. We are also studying in a I home group I belong to about transforming the atmosphere or the energy around you. This is all simply delicious.

  2. I have learned in my life that I do not make many cognitive choices about anything. Things just happen to me and I roll with the flow. If I think everything depends on my choice then if things go wrong I blame myself and fall under the control of the devil. I know the Bible says there is a way that seems right unto man but the ends thereof are the ways of death. The ways of death are the ways of the devil. He is the blamer of the brethren. I have learned that if I lean toward my own understanding then I am not trusting in the Lord. Actually when I lean toward my own understanding I am denying the very existence of our Lord. I have observed that much, if not most of the teaching in the church today, tries to teach mankind to make the right choices in life by reasoning from the standpoint of mankind’ s own self-oriented understanding, not trusting in God. Jesus told the Pharisees, “If I with the finger of God cast out devils then NO DOUBT the kingdom of God is come upon you.”
    The coming of the kingdom of God to earth is the salvation of the world and it is all the work of God so it will be universal and complete. Amen

  3. Amen.

    Beautifully reconstituted.

    Thanks, Cathee, for paying attention.

  4. Equanimity. I love that word. It flows over and through me like God’s grace. “Breathe deep,” I tell myself each morning when I enter my ‘quiet time’ spot on the back porch.
    Now I can simply say, “Equanimity” and let the Lord flow His presence over and through me. Thanks for your thought-filled words that brought me a moment of equanimity after a very hectic week.

  5. Equanimity. New word for me. I like it. Mental Calmness.
    I took off work today because I need a Mental Health day. I have not had any mental calmness since my mother passed away in July. Too many people came to help and school started so it was back to work for me . I have been worrying about my kids, father and sisters. I have been ignoring me, my health, spiritual lif and my marriage. I have to admit that I have not shown any grace or dignity in these times and feel as if I am drowning.
    When I read this post I felt as if you were writing this to me. It made me stop and realize that I am a soul running wild. Time to reign myself in and get it back together. Searching for Equanimity.

    • Sharon

      I love your raw honesty here. You are on a good track because you “see” where you are. Keep pursuing whatever it takes to heal your own soul. You’ll be practically worthless without that. Sounds like you need some solitude and centering on what is needed in your core being. May the Holy Spirit surround you with His comfort and peace.

      Cathee

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