MEDITATION 101: EQUANIMITY: RADICAL PERMISSION TO ALLOW, ACCEPT AND FEEL
Can’t sit still for 2 mins? I hear you.
In fact, when it came to starting a meditation practice, this was my main barrier to entry until I realised what was driving the hyperactivity. For us (and we know we’re not alone) this surface level can’t sit still-ness was actually a symptom of self-aversion. It might sound strange initially but consider this. We all reflexively move towards pleasure and away from pain, of both the emotional and physical variety. It’s part of our in-built survival kit – the way our nervous system is wired. When we’re in pain, or even just mildly uncomfortable, we move away from those unpleasant “feels”. We look for distractions, diversions, anything that takes the edge off. Whether that’s over-consuming food, using drugs, alcohol, work or sex or in the context of a meditation practice distracting ourselves with fidgets, fantasies of the future, re-runs of the past, stories and all sorts of cerebral wandering. Basically being anywhere but grounded in our body (in-body = embodied).
However, we can interrupt the evolutionary reflex to dissociate when the going gets tough, by re-training ourselves to stay connected to our bodies, feeling all the feels and ultimately getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. We do this by approaching our experience in meditation with an attitude of radical acceptance and friendly curiosity. We don’t have to suppress feelings or sensations, but we also don’t have to identify with them. The magic middle ground is equanimity- or as meditation teacher Shinzen Young puts it, “the balanced state of non-interference.” Practicing equanimity in meditation allows us to cultivate this quality of radical acceptance in all other areas of our lives. When we sit still, discomfort in the mind and body will arise – physical pain, boredom, frustration, a sense of sorrow etc. By noticing the inner dialogue we learn to stay (rather than leave or resist) and listen (without judgement or attachment).
Try this: Sit in stillness for an extended period of time (20mins or more). Know that physical discomfort will arise, alongside fatigue, frustration, boredom and a clamouring of internal narratives. Remain still and simply observe what your mind is doing in relationship to your discomfort. It might drift off into daydreams, start playing the woe is me ‘victim’ violin or analyse and fret ‘surely this pain in my knee is not normal, something is wrong here!?’ Your mind might even close in on the discomfort in a white-knuckled, ‘watch-me-conquer’ kind of way Become aware of any urge to circumvent your sensations (in any way at all), to analyse, override, suppress or manipulate what is happening moment-to-moment. Gently decline your minds urges. Instead consent to the sensations and emotions, acknowledge and accept them, let them shape-shift, intensify, spread, dissipate and dissolve without interference. Feel. It. All. Let it move through you without trying to stop the tears, hush the heart ache, or escape the icky sensations. If we can accept the ever changing conditions —the ease and irritation, the praise and criticism, the inexhaustible list of ideas, expectations, subtexts and stories that arise without subscribing or playing into them, we can go beyond the mind and rest in the pure awareness itself.
As the Buddha instructs, “develop a mind that is vast like space, where experiences both pleasant and unpleasant can appear and disappear without conflict, struggle or harm.” In a mind ‘vast like space’ we remember – feelings are like distinct and fast-moving weather patterns – subtle, ever-shifting forces. They surface and sweep through our interior landscape, then they’re gone. We’re re-minded, as Rilke says that ‘no feeling is final’ and with that reassurance we can remain the eye of the storm. We can stay calm and embodied – psycho-emotional rain hail or shine. Equanimity is the art of staying. And it’s an art that’s worth devoting yourself to. During your meditation give yourself radical permission to feel and you’ll experience a growing capacity to release resistance. You’ll reduce compulsivity in behaviours and reactivity in all areas of your life.
Final thoughts, courtesy of Rumi, whose poetry speaks beautifully to the art of equanimity and meeting your experience with unconditional (friendly) curiosity.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi
By Brieann Boal – Byron Privates Holistic Trainer / Yoga / Mindfulness Teacher
Brieann is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor who has a passion for integrative training. Brieann combines the best of yoga, traditional fitness, personal training and mindfullness in her group sessions with the clients at Byron Private. With over a decade of experience in the fitness industry, Brieann holds a degree in Creative Industries (majoring in Journalism) as well as certifications in Thai Massage, Lomi Lomi Massage and Reiki. Brieann is also the founder and creator of Wabi-Sabi Well in Byron Bay.
Brieann’s approach at Byron Private is wholehearted and compassionate and based on a deep understanding that our strength is ultimately derived from our pain. By drawing on her own journey of recovery from an eating disorder Brieann supports clients to find acceptance, a new mindset and self love.