“Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”
Be compassionate to your healing body, and your loving soul, as much as you can in this very moment.
To do so, to accept it, is the very essence of being human.
By allowing self- compassion, you free yourself from the inevitable exhaustion of straining to escape your own humanity.
Pain ebbs and flows.
Struggles arise and fall.
They needn’t be set upon like they new projects or obstacles to be broken through. Sometimes, embracing the reality of a situation is more powerful than trying to escape it.
Listen to what’s true to you at this moment.
Ask for – and grant yourself – some space.
See what work you can do from the place you are in, right now.
And then, be wholly, emphatically, grateful for it.
[Self-Care Sunday Series: wellness experts worldwide are sharing their self-care expertise, practices, routines and personal stories.Today’s guest post is by self-care revolutionary Christy Tennery-Spalding]
This is part four in a five part series on meditation and how it can help us to cultivate greater feelings of love for ourselves, each other, and the planet. In this series, I’m examining the Brahma Viharas (or the Four Divine Abodes), a Buddhist concept that refers to the sublime states we cultivate through meditation: compassion (karuna), lovingkindness (metta), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (>upekkha).
Today, we’ll examine upekkha, equanimity, and how we can wield it as a tool for resilience in times of uncertainty.
It can be helpful, in discussing equanimity, to first be clear on what it does not mean. It does not mean indifference. It does not mean that we are unmoved by consequences or outcome. It certainly does not mean that we are not invested or passionate about our work.
Equanimity does not equate a “Whatever” attitude.
Instead, equanimity, I understand it, is flow. It is a sense of trust and receptivity toward whatever will arise. When we rest our minds in equanimity, we are not attached to outcome. We are at peace in our actions and in our purpose. But we do not act in alignment with our purpose in order to achieve something in particular.
In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a line in Chapter Two that states that we are entitled to our rightful work, but not to its fruits or results. This is equanimity: goodness for its own sake. Rightful action because it is rightful — not for any greater benefit.
Upekkha can support us and ground us in what we know to be rightful, while freeing us from disappointment, attachment or aversion. For instance: we do not meditate to “win” at meditation. We meditate for its own inherent goodness. This is part of how we cultivate equanimity: through devotion in our practice, without the promise of external reward.
Likewise, we can apply this to healing or change-making work.
For instance, I live with scoliosis in my spine. It’s been there for a long time and I assume that it will be there for years to come. I live alongside it. Some days, the pain is greater. Some days, it is less. I never know what I’ll get when I wake up in the morning.
For some, this would be deeply troubling, this uncertainty. But it is a great teacher in equanimity. In relationship to my spine, I dance with equanimity often.
I take good care of my body, my mind, my spiritual well-being. I eat a nutritious variety of food, enjoy movement practice, and am relatively active. I also read spiritual texts and practice self-care for my whole being. None of this guards against the scoliosis or back pain in general. Some mornings, I wake, and the pain is there.
This pain does not mean I have failed. It is not the desired outcome, certainly, of my self-care. But nor does it point toward failure. I am not “bad” and my back is certainly not “bad” because there is pain. It simply is. When the pain is there, I tend to rest. When I feel well, I tend to be active. Regardless of the unpredictability of my body and its healing arcs, I treat myself well, showing it kindness and respect through my words and practice.
Likewise, there is space for equanimity practice in the larger world as well. Whether it’s an election outcome, a particular injustice, or some other situation in the world, we may feel powerless to affect a desired outcome.
But what if we reversed that perspective?
What if, instead, we simply went about our work anyway? We could use the energy that we might otherwise spend on worrying or feeling helpless, and instead, roll up our sleeves and do what we can. None of us can change the course of history alone. None of us can do it all. But we can choose to do our own little bit.
We can choose to act in a way that is aligned with our hearts, regardless of the outcome. Yes, there will be some people left unserved or some struggles for justice that we lose. But through the cultivation of equanimity, we can take refuge in the work itself. We can find hope, interconnection, and peace knowing that we tried — regardless of the outcome.
Christy Tennery-Spalding is a self-care mentor, healer, activist, and writer. She works with world-changing individuals to help them craft amazing self-care practices. She is the creator of Hella Metta, a 10-day meditation e-course to cultivate fierce lovingkindness. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their feral cats, Dorothy & Harriet. Find free self-care resources to start your practice on her website, ChristyTending.com.
What is your experience for compassion? Let us know in the comments.
Dear Grace Q & A: How do I find flexibility balancing demands of working in a professional environment with taking care of my health?
Thanks for asking such a great question. I hear how tough this is for you, it sounds like your health -care and self-care needs don’t feel met or accepted in a professional environment. I’ve been there! How many times have I longed to just lie down on the floor in a meeting, to close my eyes for a nap and be in a little less pain…
But I believe health and professionalism go together – self-care and health-care that help you feel as well as possible will, I believe, help you do your job as well as possible. And in a sustainable way. That’s something we can all work towards.
To begin, let us figure out what the demands of working in a professional environment are – often we make assumptions and are taking on work we don’t need to or unknowingly, unintentionally making things harder for ourselves (hello other Type-A recovering perfectionists)…
What are the job requirements and are you meeting those?
What’s your goal in being in the job and are you directing your energy to that? Working for passion or professional development is going to lead to different actions to working for a wage when your passion is elsewhere.
What healthy initiatives are already in the professional environment? Lots of companies do healthy lunches, fund a bike schemes, have a gym or a reduced fee for company employees to use a local gym etc, on-site employee counselling, flexible working and compassionate leave allowances. Are you taking advantage of all of the options available? If you don’t know they exist you can’t use them – this is where a company handbook or a talk with a boss or HR might come in.
What are your needs? What do YOU need to do to take care of your health? Do you need to drink enough water, take screen breaks, work at a standing desk, take frequent breaks?
What are your rights? If you have a disability, does the company have a requirement to make provisions for you? For example, can you take rest breaks during the day but make up the time with flexible working hours? Is there a conference room that’s rarely used that you can lie down in and rest? Take an eye mask and folding yoga mat in a reusable bag. Do you need to store lunch in a fridge or meds?
If meetings are overrunning or are too tiring, do you actually need to attend the whole meeting? Does everyone? Do some people come in for their piece and then bow out? Perhaps you can attend for the piece you need to present or be a part of and then read the minutes for the rest of the meeting.
In a professional environment, if I felt self-conscious about the need to rest or if I was struggling with spasms I would go and chill in the accessible loo and also use it as a breakout space when my sensitive, empathic, introvert nature got overwhelmed by all the people and stimulation.
What can you make easier, systemise and save energy? What drains you now and what would make the biggest difference if you could change it? Can you start there?
Would a healing morning routine be helpful? Or an accessible, healing lunch?
To balance the challenge, it can help to think of your goal or mission. Maybe it’s to do the best work, to earn a wage, to share your gifts, to focus on your healing. What actions are supporting that and which are diminishing it? My goal is to be of service, share what I have to share and earn enough to be well. If something doesn’t support one of those things, I don’t do it. Working with this is a practice that takes time, but I believe in you and your possibilities.
How do you manage professional demands and health needs? Let me know in the comments!
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