Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Elusive Equanimity

As a therapist, a healer, and a spiritual seeker, equanimity is quality that I have always tried to cultivate. People who come for therapy, come, literally, from every emotional walk of life. Every possible shade of negative emotion is manifested in therapy, and as such, one learns to take it in one’s stride. Or so I deluded myself! Until one fine day, not so long ago, in walked Mr. Y, a parent of a teen I was working with, an angry soul, whose anger and negativity was so palpable, so impacting, that it pervaded his aura, the physical space around him, and everyone who came in contact with him. Including me.

Once in a while, we all come across such people. People who are so full of angst and anger, that they leave us completely shaken, uncentered and disturbed. As a healer-therapist, I make it a point to ground myself before my sessions, and cleanse myself after my day is over, to ensure that I do not carry any unwanted emotions, thoughts or energies with me into my personal life. But with Mr. Y., I could not do so for a long time – a couple of weeks, in fact. He affected me, made me angry and upset with his accusations, and the general way in which he was treating his kids. It took me considerable time and effort to re-center myself and continue to interact with him without getting affected.

This incident got me thinking. It made me wonder how I, or anyone for that matter, can go about clearing one’s own space of such extremely strong and negative emotions that others may unknowingly dump on one. Based on what worked for me, I would suggest some or all of the following steps if you ever find yourself in such a situation.

·    Recognise & Acknowledge Your Reactions: Accept that you are reacting to the behaviour, words, body language, or simply the emotional charge of the other person. Take ownership for your own emotions. Instead of saying, “He made me feel depressed”, say to yourself, “I am feeling depressed because of what he said.” Acknowledge that you have unwittingly allowed yourself to be dragged into a game that you do not want to play.

·       Breathe! Practice deep breathing and allow the emotions or feelings to just flow through your body. If you are familiar with any kind of formal breathwork, like Yoga, meditation, Vipassana, Mindfulness practice, prioritise that. If not, then simply close your eyes, and breathe in deeply. As you inhale, feel yourself breathing in peace and calm, and when you exhale, blow out with your mouth, breathing out all the negative emotion that you are experiencing. Do this for at least 7 times, and then check how you feel. Keep doing this breathing work in cycles of 7 until you feel the discharge of the emotion.

·       Practice Forgiveness: Forgive the other person for behaving the way he or she does. You don’t know the battles he is fighting, and what viewpoint he is operating from. Also forgive yourself for all the negative feelings you have developed toward him or her. Accept your human-ness, accept that you are reacting with negativity. Again, there are many beautiful ways to actively practice forgiveness. Hoʻoponopono is one such simple and beautiful practice. It is an ancient Hawaiian technique of practicing forgiveness. Vipassana meditation also teaches you the practice of giving Metta, or waves of friendship, warmth and goodwill to people. If nothing else, simply taking a few moments to express gratitude to the Universe for all the good things in your life will also go a long way in making it easier for you to forgive the person who has impacted you so much.

·         Actively Move On: Lastly, make a concerted effort to move yourself out of that emotional zone, and into something that is constructive and positive. Get started on some task that has been long pending, even if it is something as trivial as cleaning your room, sorting your closet, or calculating your accounts. Engage your mind into tasks that truly require your energy; this makes it difficult for your energy to be available for unhealthy emotions and thoughts.

My experience with Mr. Y. has taught me many things. First and foremost, it has taught me that I do not need to be part of anyone else’s dramas or stories. It is up to me entirely, I can disconnect, cut-off, refuse to be part of his or her life issues by choosing to not respond to any mind-games the other person may knowingly or unknowingly engage in. But more importantly, it taught me that it is up to me to maintain my inner balance, my equanimity and my sense of being centered and grounded. People, situations and experiences may pose challenges in different ways; but ultimately, my peace of mind is my priority, and unless I take active control of it, equanimity will always remain elusive. Last of all, I realised, all over again, that the quest for equanimity is an on-going one. It is not a destination…… but a journey full of important lessons along the way!