What is Equanimity?

This is a guest blog by Dr Joey Weber – learn more about Joey at the end of the blog. Or read his blog “What is Emotion Regulation and What Are Emotion Regulation Skills here. If you’re interested in trying out his unique approach to developing Equanimity why not join us for his upcoming 6 week Equanimity Based Compassionate Action online course

Equanimity refers to the toughest of contemplative practices. If it were a fine wine, I’d say it blends the present moment (about a $10 bottle) and mature equanimity (a $100 bottle) and leaves you feeling rather refined. You see, in this life, it is easy to get knocked off balance – our happiness and peace are lavishly spent at little cost. Mindfulness, yoga and all the current trends are made out to be simple – just a breath away – a short course, possibly inspired by Buddhism, and your inner wisdom will evolve. Yet this stability and wisdom seems to be so fleeting and dependent on how well organized our external circumstances are. When we perceive ourselves to be in balance we don’t place much importance on yoga or inner work, yet when we meet crisis , even a small one, we jump back on the balance train, yet often come up crying. Welcome to my Yoyo world of spiritual practices. This has been me for a long time – my evenness of mind isn’t very even and seems to oscillate around how well other things are going for me. This all began to change when I found equanimity, began to stop using mindfulness solely as a self-help therapeutic tool and started to examine things socially.

What is Equanimity?

So firstly, be honest. I need you to put what you think about the concept on the table. There is no point in reading this unless you are honest with yourself. What do you want to hear? Do you want another Buddhist definition? Or one from some other religion, other philosophies? And are you simply seeking confirmation bias that you’re correct, you’re point of inception was ‘the right’ one, that your guru, teacher, path had it right all along? If you type ‘equanimity’ in Google – a host of abstract yet slightly cool and syrupy sentences appear, set in front of stones and streams in the background, or a stormy sea of some sort. But do they really speak to you? Like, jump off the screen and nestle in your awareness and can you maintain complete equanimity in daily life? I am here to take the word equanimity out from the mystical and to try and put it into the lap of the practical.

I’m being genuine here and mean no ill will – IF you can be open and honest, then please carry on reading, as you’re the type of person I’m interested in. If not, then please leave quietly into the abyss and grab your fixed and rigid hat and scarf on the way out. I say that with compassion of course. I’m here to give you a secular approach. But I expect you to be open with the result. Aren’t you used to hearing equanimity being used to describe some lofty concept, something to do with weather or mountains or some other seemingly mystical interpretation? In the mindfulness world – I argue that acceptance and non-judgement are NOT the same as equanimity. This is such a huge point to make; it’s a big question. Ask yourself – do you think those terms do equanimity justice? Here is my philosophy, my dual approach:

Inner: Open acceptance of non-reactivity towards our own discrimination faculties (pleasure, displeasure, neutrality), so we can respond with compassion for self and others.

Outer: Accepting another’s discrimination faculties (pleasure, displeasure, neutrality) with patience, so as to respond with compassion for self and others.

Think about it deeply. We are talking freedom baby – freedom from judgment, prejudice and repression in all circumstances. People think it’s some form of passive calmness, an even mind or indifference. Equanimity is the biggest emotional intelligence, the biggest compassionate act and the most mindful of activities, yet the majority of people ignore it. I mean how many of us do mindful breathing or body scans? Possibly millions now. How many do equanimity meditations? I’d guess only thousands. The bias for mindfulness over the virtue of remarkable equanimity and the misunderstanding of what it actually is really frustrates me. The mindfulness world has done incredible work but we need to extend the baton now, as this relay race could do with travelling a new terrain. Perhaps this material world needs equanimity now more than ever.

What is equanimity and how can it improve your mental health?

Ask yourself what mental states arise when we are overly attached to or averse to certain conditions, or having things a certain way and in our control. What comes up when we react so strongly to fixed and rigid views? I think addictions, anxiety, depression, neuroticism, non-acceptance, conflict etc. – and that’s just a quick consideration. When we practice, our wisdom grows, stress dissipates, and peace, and happiness prevail. Although this takes regular practice, and we need to integrate it into our daily meditation. When I think mental health, I think about how fluid, easy going, relaxed and resilient we are able to bounce back with a good sense of ease. I think there is some idea that we become non-emotional with equanimity, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Equanimity does mean getting up close and personal with your emotional states for sure. How can anything pass through us if we can’t even look at it first? All the pain, fear and shame we might experience, rerunning in our minds… Equanimity affords emotional regulation, so perhaps PTSD, and painful and difficult experiences like that might be alleviated with proper equanimity training.

5 benefits of cultivating equanimity in your daily life

Let’s take a look at the benefits of developing equanimity in your daily life. The first one is you will become some form of superhuman – joke – unfortunately, you might heal. And I say unfortunately because healing brings release, but before release it brings pain. So people can often think ‘Wooah’ things are getting worse before they get better. That’s because we are experiencing CHANGE and our brains might not be familiar with it. But that is one of the perils of self development – the work part. Not cool, but unavoidable really.

Letting things go – the root of equanimity is an equalizing state of mind towards everything – an evenness of mind that still discerns, of course, but treats people and experiences ultimately similarly. I notice a resilience and evenness toward experience in terms of experiencing the intensity of emotion yet being able to move past it and into some place of equilibrium in the aftermath with much more ease than before. An equal joy with a full spirit if you like, even though there was some temporary emotional discomfort. So you do not become a robot and stop feeling in the moment – you become mega aware of your own emotions moment to moment before letting go with more ease. You develop more emotional stability, essentially a mind ninja – the more equanimity you have the less bad temper and greater ability for unbiased kindness.

Less conflict, with self and others. Less inner conflict and more harmony with fellow humans. I guess that’s what all the ‘goodies’ are preaching. Universal love and all that jazz – well duh, if there’s no equanimity how on earth are we going to get there? I mean, it makes me a bit mad actually how neglected this term is, yet literally thousands of people are on the universal love train, with the single most important carriage left waiting at the station.

Authenticity – let me be real here – I do not think hardly any of us truly are. Me included. We are so used to playing social games and having our masks on, this whole authenticity is just a word to pretend we are being real. How can we be authentic if we do not come to terms with some of our own conditioning, implicit bias, and judgements and then consciously be exercising with those constructs as we relate to others? How open are we really to another person’s perspective? Doesn’t opposition just make us angry deep down?!

Stability – inner mental stability and emotional regulation. How many emotional keys are actually played on our own inner piano? Once we are open with ourselves, then we can experience our emotions fully, and then we can become conscious enough to work with them and exercise equanimity, which gives us this inner strength, resilience or whatever you want to call it.

The power of equanimity: How to stay calm in the face of adversity

All you have to do is stare at a mountain and consider how the mountain stays the same amidst thunder, snow and sunlight and does not react differently to each – Nah, I am being facetious again. But I think this sounds like we are promoting dry neutrality. We spend our entire life with our emotions. Come on – everyone is looking for a quick fix and a magic pill. Life is very hard. Adversity is even tougher. I say let adversity blow you around a bit, then come back to steadiness and mental fortitude and dance with impermanence. Composure does not arrive in the moment without enhanced awareness, which takes effort and a willingness to embrace our feelings. The more equanimity, the quicker you become centred. With this comes more joy and less judgement and in general a more positive attitude with less suffering. If you can achieve equanimity, then you can begin to have the courage to remain calm in the face of adversity, and ultimately, lessen your own suffering.

Developing Equanimity: Working with mindfulness practice

You need mindfulness, but as a tool for going deeper. I think the world is clearly lacking in equanimity. I mean I know I am totally biased here. How ironic! We talk about bias – I am sure if I was old with a gray beard my work would have caught on a lot more. Also, I think the very title of my book Why Mindfulness Is Not Enough: Unlocking Compassion with Equanimity offends people. Which is why I did it really – but you know, the bias of people based upon their reaction to chosen words is enough to show me there is not a drop of equanimity out there. I wrote it for you, yet you will never read it – something deeply poetic about that. When you interact with others, do you feel judged or equal? If you feel judged, there is no equanimity = simple. Until the world starts speaking to me with equanimity, I will not give up on this. I do believe it the single most important practice of our time.

Where can you learn more about Equanimity?

The Equanimity Based Compassionate Action (EBCA) programme is the first course to focus solely on the latest scientific construct of equanimity. Based on my PhD research and book, the course consists of 6 X 2-hour sessions to help people cope better with their emotional regulation and extend the parameters of compassion. Through guided meditations, group dialogue, individually tailored instruction, you will learn the essential principles of equanimity extending beyond mindfulness to build your own personal toolkit to access wide ranging benefits such as emotional balance, conflict resolution, deepening empathy, compassion and overall wellbeing.

• A thorough background of the science of equanimity. Mindfulness/Equanimity differentiation. Meditation techniques involving the breath and body (mindfulness) as a tool for stabilising the mind readying it for deeper enquiry.

Barriers to equanimity. Understanding what’s in your way of a deeper sense of congruence. Adaptive equanimity meditation (friends, enemies, strangers).

• Analysing the 7-step method to cultivating an equanimous mindset. Applying case studies and scenarios. Dangers of apathy/dissociation and fine tuning the required balance towards healthy emotional regulation and resilience.

• Understanding the significance of self-compassion in cultivating compassion for others. Adaptive tonglen self-compassion meditation.

• Recognising the tools necessary for compassionate activism and wider applications of social mindfulness. Fostering connection and social cohesion using equanimity as the foremost foundation.

Guest blog by Dr Joey Weber

Joey developed and validated one of the world’s first psychometric scales that solely focuses on the construct of equanimity – The Equanimity Barriers Scale (EBS) in 2018. His research (spanning 6 years) includes operational definitions of inner and outer equanimity relevant for clinical psychology, theoretical models of judgement and the validation of the EBS. He has recently published a book entitled Why Mindfulness Is Not Enough: Unlocking Compassion with Equanimity, which is an overview of his research and includes case studies and guided meditations in order to bring equanimity down from the mystical and into the lap of the practical.

You can read more about Joey on his website: Equanamee.

Joey has also hosted multiple talks for FDCW. You can view these videos on our Youtube channel or on our videos page.

Equanimity Based Compassionate Action (EBCA)

If you enjoyed Dr Joey Weber’s style and are keen to learn more about equanimity why not join him for his online Equanimity Based Compassionate Action (EBCA) course starting May 7th 2023!

The Equanimity Based Compassionate Action [EBCA] programme is the first course to focus solely on the latest scientific construct of equanimity. The course consists of 6 X 2 hour sessions to help people cope better with their emotional regulation and extend the parameters of compassion. Through guided meditations, group dialogue, individually tailored instruction, you will learn the essential principles of equanimity extending beyond mindfulness to build your own personal toolkit to access wide ranging benefits such as emotional balance, conflict resolution, deepening empathy, compassion and overall wellbeing

Learn More

The Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom

At FDCW we are committed to a more compassionate, wiser world. We provide resources, courses and training to develop qualities such as kindness, patience and courage – qualities which are essential for meeting the challenges of the world we all share. The Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom (FDCW) was established as a global charity based in London in 2005. Since then we have provided secular training, programmes and resources across many sectors of society – schools, universities, hospices, workplaces, healthcare, youth groups and community centres. Our courses have reached thousands of people across the world through our dedicated and growing network of facilitators in more than 20 countries.

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