Dealing with Uncertainty
The practice of equanimity provides a sense of calm and emotional unflappability to see us through life’s inevitable ups and downs
It is the first day of May, which means we’re halfway through a two-month long ‘lockdown’ of sorts for everyone in Singapore. Up until 21 April, we thought that 4 May would have been the end date of the circuit breaker. No one could predict that the government would extend this period right up to 1 June.
As we battle a silent, invisible Covid-19 virus, life as we know it can shift quickly, with new wide-reaching regulations coming into force overnight. Indeed, as offices, hairdressing salons, restaurants, and other venues that we frequent in our daily lives suspend operations while we hunker down in our homes, it is sometimes not easy to see the end in sight.
Globally, we’re seeing some unprecedented events unfold across the world: US oil prices dipped below zero for the first time in history, luxury brand Bulgari started manufacturing hand sanitisers for medical facilities in Italy, and the tourism industry came to a standstill as countries began closing their borders.
With our daily reality shifting in micro and macro ways, oftentimes due to forces beyond our control, it is natural that we feel confused, worried, or even anxious. When these feelings begin to overwhelm you, it is useful to remember that the path of yoga is concerned with inner freedom, and in such an instance, you might close your eyes, still your mind, and sit in upeksha – which in Sanskrit, refers to a place of even-mindedness or equanimity.
Cultivating equanimity through meditation
When your mind is able to settle into the calm waters of equanimity, you develop an emotional unflappability that carries you through life’s inevitable ups and downs. Our brain instinctively reacts negatively to unforeseen events. But like a muscle, it can be trained to react to chaos with a sense of calm. Studies have shown that subjects trained in meditation exhibit higher degrees of equanimity and disengage more quickly from external stimulus such as a startling noise.
To be clear, meditation is neither able to remove us from or change our external circumstances, but what it can do is help us to perceive and experience these challenges in a different way.
As you venture deeper into your meditation practice, you begin to be aware of how you erroneously regard the impermanent as permanent, and in trying to seek reliability in the unreliable, you suffer when life does not go our way. As you shift your habits of the mind and unlearn the habits that bind it in suffering, you start to draw closer to a place of inner freedom and inner peace.
To place equanimity at the centre of your mind’s eye is to develop an inner life that is independent of the circumstances we find ourselves in. That is not to say that we disregard or devalue the people or environment around us, but that we understand that we are not our thoughts. So instead of letting your mind react with negative thoughts, you reflect instead on the mind itself so that you can stand in a space of equanimity and let go of the rest. When you arrive at this point, you can welcome whatever the moment brings; living without the grip of fear and anxiety, as well as worry about what the future brings.
A moment of calm
If you have a moment to spare today, find a quiet spot in the house and take a comfortable seated position as you tune into this six-minute guided meditation practice focused on cultivating equanimity.