“Mindfulness is the agent of our freedom. Through mindfulness we arrive at faith we grow in wisdom & we attain equanimity.”
-Sharon Salzberg, A Heart as Wide as the World: Stories on the Path of Lovingkindness
What if there was a tool we could use to stay calm in stressful situations and remain levelheaded regardless of outside factors? Wouldn’t this ability to stay grounded despite surrounding happenings help us to perform more effectively as part of a team at work, be a more supportive friend or caring parent? Thankfully, mindfulness meditation trains us in building this exact skill: equanimity.
Mindfulness meditation teaches us to pause before reacting to any type of stimulus. Rather than jump to fill the space, we learn to sit with whatever it is we feel and let it come and go without judgment.
Mindfulness meditation is a way for us to regularly train our minds. Just as we exercise our bodies to keep them fit, healthy, and performing optimally, so too we are able to exercise our minds through daily mindfulness meditation.
The typical mindfulness meditation session goes something like the following. We begin meditating by focusing on the in and out breath. Our mind inevitably wanders away from the breath to our daily to-do list or a complex work project. We suddenly notice that we’ve gone off in thought and we reflect, non-judgmentally and bring our attention back to the breath. In consistently practicing these steps, we increase our capacity to pause before reacting to stimulus. This ability to pause is supremely valuable, particularly in the face of stress and other triggers or unpleasant feelings and situations. We begin to understand that we can sit with whatever we are feeling for just this moment without having to escape it.
This realization is a profound one for the meditator and the moment when we really become aware of the many ways in which we escape our reality with such frequency. Once we become aware, we are able to respond to the situations we face thoughtfully and consciously. We allow the pleasant and unpleasant to come and go without shaking our ground. We accept that we cannot control the way things turn out and with this knowledge comes freedom and peace.
In formal meditation practice, we can cultivate equanimity by following the breath and, when we become consumed by a thought or emotion, we can gently bring our focus back to the breath again and again. The beauty of this practice is that we cannot make a mistake or do a bad job; we can simply and compassionately notice and come back to our anchor, the breath, which is always with us wherever we are.
Meditation instructor Alice Lash offers mindfulness meditation in Miami. Interested in learning more about how to cultivate equanimity through a mindfulness meditation practice? Contact Alice at Mindfultime or sign up for a group class today.