Can I be emotionally free, no matter what happens?
One way of achieving emotional freedom, despite external events, is through cultivating equanimity.
Equanimity is a balance in our emotional body. It is a virtue, a practise that we can incorporate into our lives. It refers to a deep-seated sense of spacious stillness and openness that is undisturbed by the emotional ups and downs that go on on the surface. This is not to be confused with the suppression of feelings, apathy or detachment. Equanimity is not about disconnection, in fact, it does quite the opposite - equanimity gives us the stability and strength that deepen our presence, patience, and connection with the world around us.
How do we develop equanimity?
One way of cultivating equanimity is through mindfulness. In the tradition of insight meditation (Vipassana tradition), the student is taught to notice the ever-changing sensations, feelings and thoughts, whilst cultivating a sense of healthy detachment with whatever is happening. Being in equanimity allows you to see the ever-changing and unfolding processes in life without getting caught up in reactivity or over-identification. Eventually, you will learn to ‘ride the waves’ of life’s ups and downs. As Jon Kabat Zin says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf!”. Or, quoting Viktor Frankl: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
The goal of this practice is to find a way of living that is free of our compulsive need to hold onto the good and to push away the bad. In the Buddhist tradition, equanimity provides us with protection from the “eight worldly winds”: praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute. With equanimity, we can feel pleasure without clinging to it or worrying about its ceasing, and we can feel pain without perpetuating it.
Ultimately, you can feel more and more free by expanding the range of life experiences you welcome into your world. Instead of expending endless energy in resisting reality, welcome whatever arises, and allow them to change you.
Equanimity offers the gift of freedom from the constant pull of emotions.
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