The end of year is a time when many of us pause to take stock of the time passed and to assess how to best move forward with the time remaining.
What an important opportunity to ponder on equanimity!
Two monks are silently walking back to their monastery after a heavy day of rain. Along the path, standing by a large pool of water that extends the entire width of the path, an elderly woman stares at her feet.
As they approach the woman, “good evening madam, may I be of assistance?” says one of the monks.
“That would be lovely. I need to get to the village before dark, but feel scared that if I walk in the water I may fall and hurt myself” responds the elderly woman.
“Would it be ok if I carry you over?”
“That would be lovely!”
As agreed, the monk carries the woman across the water, gently puts her down on the other side, and they all proceed on their journey.
Thirty minutes later, the monastery now visible in the distance, the other monk, visibly edgy, proclaims, “brother, I am really upset with you. You know perfectly well that our order forbids any physical contact with women. I cannot believe you carried that woman half an hour ago!”
The brother listens intently and after a few moments of reflection responds, “It’s true brother! Our order forbids us from having any physical contact with women and I have carried that woman half an hour ago, but you are still carrying her now.”
As you ponder on your 2021 and explore your life’s experiences, ask yourself, “What am I still carrying that I should have let go a long time ago?”
Consider this question deeply and you will realise that there are a lot of things in your backpack that are best removed. There is no point in carrying a burden that is of no use on the journey ahead; it will only slow you down and cause more blisters.
As you explore, be fair in the way you audit your year.
We have a tendency to think that letting go should be reserved for negative experiences, emotions and situations.
Useful as it may be, it would not be a complete process.
There are positive things that we expect or that happens to us that in truth just burden us. It’s good to make space by letting these go.
LET GO OF THE NEGATIVE
The last two years have been challenging in ways we never imagined possible.
Maybe you lost your job; maybe you cancelled an event you had spent a lot of time and effort to create; maybe you missed the opportunity to see your family for Christmas after two years since your last get together.
The appropriate emotional response for any of the above examples would include sadness, frustration, maybe even anger. Good on you if you allowed yourself to fully experience the appropriate emotions when the incidents occurred. But ask yourself, are you still holding on to them?
LET GO OF THE POSITIVE
You may be among the lucky ones for whom Covid has created new opportunities for growth, be it personal or professional.
Maybe you are in an industry that thrived and you did exceptionally well in surpassing your sales targets and you are now in great anticipation for the day you’ll receive your end of year bonus; maybe you met an amazing person with whom the promise for a fulfilling and satisfying relationship is as real as it has ever been; maybe you just signed a lucrative deal to deliver your services in a new market.
The appropriate emotional response for any of the above examples would likely include joy, excitement or even elation. Good on you if you allowed yourself to fully experience the appropriate emotions when those opportunities materialised. But ask yourself, are you still holding on to them?
I wrote the last paragraph of the above two sections in identical formats, because the impact is identical.
Think of it in these terms.
Losing your job, cancelling your events or missing your family Christmas are all in the past, and the past is gone and will stay gone. Carrying the negative impact of those events, like the monk on his walk, will only spoil the rest of your journey.
Similarly, holding on to the expectations of an end-of-year bonus, a fulfilling relationship or the fulfilment of a business deal may create joy if they all come to fruition, but a huge disappointment if they do not.
What if the market changes and the company is no longer able to pay your bonus despite your performance? What if your partner leaves you for someone else? What if the country with which you signed the deal has a political crisis and shuts the boarders to foreign investment?
“Doc, that’s a rather pessimistic view. You are usually more on the positive side” I hear you say.
If you revisit the last few paragraphs, you will discover the key to this dilemma. In two occasions I wrote, “Good on you if you allowed yourself to fully experience the appropriate emotions…” and the keyword being ‘appropriate’.
It’s perfectly ok to feel sadness, joy, frustration, excitement, anger or elation, as long as they are appropriate and timely to the situation in hand. My emphasis is on experiencing them full at that moment, and then letting them go, accepting that what was, was, and what will be, will be, despite your best efforts.
One of my teachers taught me this mantra, “emotional maturity is when we deal with today’s feelings, as today’s feelings and we do it today”; a beautiful and simple way to remember that we can leave any moment with equanimity.
The word equanimity is derived from two Latin words, aequus "even, level" + animus "mind, spirit", which loosely translated means ‘emotional stability’.
Many dictionaries tend to add something along the lines of, “…especially under strain or tension”, but I like it better when we omit this part and realise that we can keep an even-keeled mind at any moment, regardless of its emotional content, always trusting that whatever we are experiencing shall pass, and that there will be many more moments to experience a full range of emotions.
Happy New Year everyone!
Let us all end 2021 by letting go of the old to make space for the new. Who knows what “amazing” surprises 2022 has in store for us!
Thank you for reading my article.
I base all my articles on real case studies and research findings that are relevant to my work and my clients.
Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if you would like to explore something together.