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  • Writer's pictureKatie Giarth

The Power of Equanimity

Equanimity is the ability to keep the mind even and calm. Equanimity can even be more of a habit of keeping the mind calm despite the world being chaotic, or others being worried or hurried or a bit harried.

In Buddhism, for example, the opposite of having an equanimous mind is called the "monkey mind". In this scenario, the mind is on autopilot and runs constantly, and the person experiencing this may experience a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. Remember as I said in my earlier post, our internal hardware is outdated.

We are built to scan for problems. Hence the introduction of beautiful methods like meditation, Qi Gong, Feldenkrais, SE, yoga, mindfulness, and so many others! We can begin to regulate our nervous systems and therefore have a say in whether we choose to accept a thought as fact or decide that it doesn't serve us, so we let it go. Having that choice available in a split second and choosing only what will help us feel best IS equanimity.

Victor Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi camp when he discovered that the biggest freedom we have is the freedom in how we choose to respond. Can you imagine being under duress, experiencing trauma, and still finding peace? This is the power we have!

How does equanimity relate to the nervous system? How does a Feldenkrais lesson help to instill a feeling of equanimity? In Feldenkrais lessons, we create a safe, neutral place to start from. Then we explore many options all while maintaining calm breathing and an open mind. This is how the awareness of possibilities begins to emerge. By staying equanimous, we are able to access creativity.

Let me give you an example. If someone comes to me with pain in the shoulder, we agree that there is indeed some pain for one reason or another and that the pain has affected the range of motion or larger movements involving many parts of the body. Through exploration, we try out first the things that the shoulder can do easily. This calms the nervous system. As it becomes safe and, most importantly, easy to do different movements we try different things. We show the shoulder how it can move in relation to many other parts of the body, reminding it of connectivity and keeping the response rather neutral. In an ideal first lesson, the person gets up and feels that the shoulder has regained range and has a reduction in pain. This may allow the person to get back to activities that were previously too challenging. The whole time we worked through the lesson, we kept in mind those things that would create equanimity: exploring what's easy first, always coming back to neutral, and trying out different movements once the shoulder feels as though it is beginning to move well in relation to other parts of the body and within a very calm state.

Here's another example: You come to me with pain in your shoulder, and I try to "fix" it quickly and painfully, in hopes that you will feel better for a few days. In most cases, with a trainer, the pain may subside. So what is the difference here? In a few days, the pain may return because we didn't include the nervous system and bring you into a state of equanimity. Therefore, no learning occurred. We used manipulation to create a scenario where you didn't understand the process or how to return to feeling good when you didn't any longer. This "quick fix" is everywhere in our culture today. Most of you know by now that any quick fix may not last. When it comes to you and your body, lasting change is what's needed. In fact, it is the language your body speaks.

So the more you decide to do things like Feldenkrais, Qi Gong, meditation and more, you are creating or re-creating a pattern in the brain that remembers how to move with ease and without a painful history, even if you've had one! It is truly remarkable, and I believe that is why recently Feldenkrais has been studied in relation to neuroplasticity. For more information on this, check out Norman Doidge's book: How The Brain Heals.

When a situation comes up that immediately scares or frightens you, use the power of choice to respond in a way that soothes the nervous system. The more you do Feldenkrais, the more you get a sense of "wow, this really stressful thing just happened and instead of reacting like I usually would, I paused and then decided it wasn't worth investing my time in so I moved on" (or something to that effect!).. and this can be pain, an irritating situation, or something truly terrifying... you can find a way to feel equanimous about just about anything.

This is how you get your power back!


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