No rational person would admit to seeking suffering over happiness yet, this is what each of us does when we consistently let the opinions of others influence our actions and shape our self-image. Those of us who have chosen a life or career in ‘service’ did so, not thinking that this choice would place us in harm’s way.
Who could have anticipated that wanting to help a fellow human being, when they are most vulnerable, would invite a flow of analysis, harsh comments and judgment from a variety of critics, even the ones we try to serve?
Some sources call this reality shock. Others explain it as one of the paradoxes of human nature. However you want to define it, the reality is that your motives, skills and quality of care will always be seen as fair game for ‘savvy consumers’, regulatory agencies, the media, and even colleagues or friends to analyse.
In my view, you have three choices:
- You can choose the torment of being perpetually disappointed and angry;
- You can choose to get out and leave the profession; or
- You can choose equanimity and proceed along your own life’s path observing the ‘bad behaviour’ around you, yet not allowing it to deter you from your purpose or peace of mind.
Equanimity is one of the Four Immeasurables at the core of Buddhist thought. The others are Loving Kindness, Compassion, and Joy. Equanimity is the ability to see without being caught by what you see. It is the ability to not react to your reactions. Imagine that! Equanimity breaks the chain of suffering by helping us not react to the pleasant or unpleasant feeling associated with the Eight Worldly Winds:
- Praise verses Blame,
- Success verses Failure,
- Pleasure verses Pain, and
- Fame verses Disrepute.
Becoming excessively attached to success, praise, fame or pleasure can be a clear road map for suffering when the Worldly Winds change direction. Success is wonderful, but if it defines you, what happens when an inevitable failure lands at your feet? Praise can be addictive. Seeking to constantly fill that craving soon depicts you as needy. Over identifying with failure breeds a sense of incompetence or inadequacy. Overreacting to pain (physical or emotional), will wear you down and lead you to a life of discouragement.
Equanimity gives you perspective. A unique understanding or sense that your inner well-being is independent of the Eight Worldly Winds therefore; you are more likely to remain calm and balanced as the Winds swirl around you. When anchored, such ability gives rise to a great sense of inner peace. I have a very powerful tool which I call the ‘grounding cord’ – I teach this my How To Have It All…Without Going M.A.D. or Getting Sick workshops.
Goodness knows I’ve not quite completely mastered this ability/skill as yet. However, with time (hopefully growth and not just aging), study and my continued meditative practice I am inching my way toward Equanimity. Hard work, yes; but the occasional respites associated with experiencing a genuine sense of calm have fuelled me to work to attain this state of mind on a more consistent basis.
I believe the key is space. The ability to put space between the event and the reaction to the event; much like the key to meditation is to make the space between each thought longer. So how do you create such a healthy space?
- Tap into that courage that enables you to know and accept yourself with Loving Kindness.
- Try to frame others criticism with Compassion by understanding that his/her words and actions often have roots in that human need to deflect attention away from oneself.
- Find the Joy in living an authentic life guided by your own intuitive knowledge of right and wrong.
If you want to learn how to do this powerfully in your own life, I can show you.
With Love and Equanimity,