Finding equanimity in the midst of suffering

There are topics that, for many various reasons, people hook into in their lives, such as forgiveness, acceptance, rage, love. Whether it’s from personal experiences, necessity, or a heart’s curiosity to figure things out, there’s often a desire for clarity, understanding, healing, or knowing.

Equanimity has always been one of these topics for me. I’ve touched on it before, you can read my blog on “overwhelm, acceptance, and ‘how to practice'”blog here.  

To find a compassionate heart inside which we can hold space for all who are suffering, all who we feel are creating suffering and pain, and for all who are trying to alleviate the suffering of the world, this is one of the benefits of equanimity. To be able to hold it all without shying away from it. To be able to hold it all with that sense of compassion and kindness. I believe it’s possible. 

I wrote about tending to our compassionate hearts and shared a Maxwell story with knots in it. Read it here, it’s a good one with Mudra and meditation. “You need to slow down and go right into the center of the knot.” 

It’s possible to hold it all 

I believe having a calmness of mind in turbulent circumstances is possible because I have come recently to the resolve that equanimity is both an action and a benefit in and from our practices.

When this was the topic and theme of my classes two weeks ago there was one phrase that someone said, I forget who, and the phrase has stuck with me.

“In the midst of it all.”

We are in the midst of it all, each day. Witnessing collective events and environmental events in the world, as much as our own personal exterior and interior landscapes of experiences.  Equanimity invites us to be in the midst of it all; to be with both the good and bad, the sorrowful and joyful, the deeply painful and the beautiful heart openings. Equanimity is to be in the midst of it all with a calm center.

Equanimity is like seeing the rainbow while the storm is raging. 



But how do we get there? How do we do that when certain things hurt so deeply?

This is why I also believe equanimity is a practice. 

How we get to that place of being able to be in the midst of it all with a compassionate heart, calm and focused mind, and a grounded sense of self is to draw on all of our practices that benefit us and help guide us to that calm center. Because that calm center is always within us. I share some of these practices below, so keep reading. 😉

What the calm center can look like

That calm center might be a mother’s ability to just stay close to her tantruming child without saying anything or doing anything, but just being there. Even when she wishes the tantrum we’re over.

The calm center can look like keeping one’s composure, knowledge of worth, and calling upon all ancestors and a moment of disregard, any of the -isms, or disrespect; and then to not attack back.  It could mean simply walking away. It could also mean a very simple and short response letting them know that you’re not going to respond. Or it could even be offering forgiveness, and wishing them well.

How can I ever get to the place where I might wish someone well who has hurt others? 

The practice of curiosity and holding a sense of wonder have always served me here. These practices have allowed me to be curious about others. It’s allowed me to even go as far as opening my heart to somebody who has hurt others so deeply; to come to the knowing of our Oneness.

Curiosity and holding a sense of wonder for myself as much as the other person is necessary. Wondering what my reaction says about me and where I can be and do a little better. Wondering about my reaction and offering myself space so that I respond instead of react. And that I respond from that compassionate heart.  Space…

Offering space, a breath, a moment. A mental pause.  A second to drop down into our bodies (more on this one below).  Space to ground.  This spaciousness allows us to widen our lens of awareness, to see more fully all of what is there in one moment.  This ‘sacred pause’, as I often call it, gives space between our reactions and the way we would wish our Self to respond. Respond, act…

The necessity also to act when deep wrongdoings are taking place. To speak up for myself when I’ve been hurt or judged so deeply. To speak up for others and to help others in great need.

Equanimity looks at all things without judgment, but it also takes a look at things and really acknowledges every part, person, and view. Just the fact that “this thing effing hurts”. That “this is so not right”. Equanimity allows us to be in the midst of it all and then from that place of the calm center, and grounded self, invites us to take care of ourselves and each other.  

This is why being with the body supports our ability to be equanimous.

Our body, your body, can be your first, and sometimes most powerful reference point for how you are experiencing the moment. 

Sometimes all we need to do is just gather our awareness in a split second and drop it down into our body; to realize how uncomfortable we are, or how deeply safe we feel.  Our body is wise.  

It can let us know when we are hurting and when we want to reach out to someone else who is hurting. For some further help with embodiment, read here in my past blog about mindful movement.


Dropping into our body
A personal example…

A personal example of how equanimity can be both a practice and a beneficial effect, or gift, is when I happen to run into a person on the street. This scenario activated so much within me.  From the moment I saw them, I immediately chose to stay with my body.

I noticed how I was nervous and felt anxious in my stomach, my heart felt angry and sad and quivering, and my thoughts began to race because I knew they were heading towards me, we had already seen each other and it was inevitable that we were going to say hello.  I chose to stay with the physical and emotional sensations in my body and let them be a guide to how I spoke.

We said hello cordially and then a very interesting thing happened.  We did not talk about things that had been activating for both of us in our collective pasts. Instead, we chose to meet each other where we were at on that day and who we were at that moment. 

One reason why I could do that is because I was grounded in my body and was wiggling my toes in my shoes. I was feeling the earth beneath me and standing tall on my own two feet.

At that moment I was hearing myself say that I have a right to be here. That I am enough. And that all that I have done and all who I am has always, to the best of my ability, come from a place of a considerate and kind heart. I also was hearing my inner self-dialogue of self-forgiveness and knowing that I haven’t always been perfect, but I still belong.

With all these practices going on within me and listening with my whole body and full attention to the other person, our conversation was actually deeply enlightening. It was heart opening. I don’t know what the other person was going through, but holding a sense of wonder for whatever they had been through and what they were going through now in their lives, allowed my heart to open even more fully to them in the moment, standing there on the sidewalk.

It was surprising for me. With a sense of gratitude and happiness, we hugged. And we went on our ways with a renewed connection that I never saw coming.

The practice of equanimity won’t always have this outcome. And yet…

If we draw upon all our other practices, if we allow ourselves to be in the midst of it all, I do believe that these types of connections are possible. Which becomes my example on a personal level, that world peace is possible.

It might seem a complete long shot and a far cry from the personal to the collective, but I allow myself to be in the midst of it all so that I can see the possibility.  Because to be in the midst of it all means that I’m also in the midst of these small and large joys of day-to-day living. I’m in the midst of everything that this world has to offer.

I invited you to breathe now, knowing that you can let your breath be an anchor for your attention. Or find a place in your body that feels peaceful, or as much at ease as possible; get your hands, or your feet, maybe it’s your whole body. Resource and use your anchor as much as you need on a daily basis. Add to it if you’d like, add words of peace, hope, love, kindness, compassion. Speak the words towards yourself, towards another or group of people, and to the world at large.


In the midst of it all with you,

Shawna 🙏🏻

Breathe and Believe.