I can’t believe that I’ve been writing these articles for almost five years now and I’ve never even mentioned the word equanimity, much less written an entire article about it. It’s central to spiritual growth.

Why? Let’s start by defining equanimity. This is the definition from Dictionary.com.:

mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness.”

It derives from the Latin aequs (even) and animus (mind, spirit, feelings). Even-minded.

Why am I making such a big deal out of this word? Because as I’ve been stating over and over for years now, nothing is more important for our overall wellbeing than letting go of our stuff. Our baggage. I’ve expressed this in myriad ways in multiple articles.

Letting go is hard

But here’s the thing: It’s hard to let go. Why? Because when our egoic baggage gets poked, the feelings that come up overwhelm us in the moment.

Which leads to reacting. What do I mean by reacting? Lashing out. Exploding. Walking off in a huff.

You ever do that? Oh, come on. I know I have zillions of times!

How do I know this is so prevalent among we mere Earthlings? Because I’ve heard from a number of you about this. I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve gotten over the years from people saying something along the lines of,

Yeah, I know it’s important to stay calm and let go, but most of the time I just can’t do it!My rage, anger, hurt, etc. is so close to the surface that I don’t have time to catch myself before losing it.”

That’s it. Right there. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we could call this epidemic of reactive responding to egoic triggering the central problem plaguing humanity.

Why is that? Why is the inability to stay calm in the face of stress and tension so injurious?

Reacting strengthens the toxic energy

Because when we react, instead of acting with equanimity, we strengthen the toxic energy that desperately wants to be released from our lower selves. And it is that energy that is the bane of our existence.

What’s the origin of that energy? Where does it come from? It’s every challenging and painful experience we’ve ever had in our lives that we didn’t let go of when it happened. Which is almost all of them.

So when one of those packets of energy gets stirred up — for example, your father never listened to you as a kid and your husband just ignored you at the dinner table — we can either react, by screaming at him, or we can respond by taking a few breaths and calming ourselves…Then relax and let that energy go. In other words, we can respond from a state of equanimity.

Letting go of the Samskaras

When we do that, we allow another packet of stuck energy — known as a Samskara in Sanskrit — to come up so we can let it go. If we keep doing this, over and over and over again, we eventually empty ourselves of this egoic muck.

And what’s the result of that? Well, the Buddhists call that state nirvana. It’s the state we reach when our egos dissolve and all that’s left is pure consciousness.

Letting go requires equanimity

Which is all fine and lovely. But the point is, it’s virtually impossible to do any of this unless we develop that state of equanimity. Without it, we’ll continue our hair-trigger, explosive reactions from now until the day we die, and miss countless opportunities to rid ourselves of the toxins that plague our lives.

We have to learn how to maintain, as the dictionary definition stated, “…emotional stability…under tension or strain.”

Which brings us to the $64,000 question: How do we go about developing this calm, measured state of equanimity? At the top of the pyramid would be this simple act:

Set an intention.

We need to commit ourselves to pursuing this ever-so-important endeavor. We need to say to ourselves:

I am going to do whatever I can to strengthen my ability to remain calm in the face of strain.To act from a state of grace. Why? Because my ability to liberate myself from myself depends on it.”

Next, we regularly practice meditation, mindfulness and any other spiritual techniques that fortify and foster a sense of inner calm.

I would include physical exercise in this as well. I work out six days a week and ninety percent of the reason I do so is for my mental health. Exercise calms me.

Practice, practice, practice

Finally, we need to practice. Every day. All day. Doing our best to remain present. Following our breath if we get uptight while driving, talking to our boss or discovering the disaster of dishes our daughter left on the kitchen counter after baking chocolate chip cookies (this one’s personal).




The takeaway

With time and practice, our ability to remain calm will strengthen.

But again, most important is setting the intention. We need to be proactive in deciding that we want to get better at being calm under duress.

Without that, it’s unlikely we’ll get to that promised land of equanimity.

Think about setting this intention. At the very least, it’ll get you on the onramp to the road to the promised land.