How to Find Equanimity
What we usually don’t realize is that we can grow our capacity for equanimity – for sitting with and through challenging experiences.
Yoga and meditation became some of the most popular forms of self-care.
According to one study, in 2017, about 14% of U.S. adults reported practicing some form of yoga and meditation. There are many styles and approaches. For example, mediation might include the repetition of a word – mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, guided imagery, progressive relaxation, and so on. There are at least 22 different styles and schools of yoga in the west. So, where should you begin?
Over the last 20 years, I’ve been practicing, learning, and teaching a style of yoga that can be called Viniyoga. In this tradition, yoga and meditation have the same meaning. It is a holistic approach to the well-being of an individual. A Viniyoga teacher is supposed to learn classical yogic texts, work closely with a mentor, and, most importantly, practice and experiment daily. The practice is highly individualized.
We can view this practice via the five-dimensional Pañcamaya model. Indian anatomy defines all aspects of our bodies, breaths, mind, personality, and environments in a beautiful bird model. And, as you might guess, they all overlap. So by changes one of the dimensions, we can affect the other dimensions.
So, let’s say that I am irritated. If I can stop and bring attention to the breath without any particular technique, just slowing it down, I can feel how my mind calms. We can experience the same tranquility by getting out of the head into the body. Music can change a state of mind, same with dancing or spending time in nature. However, breath brings equanimity to mind in the most prompt manner.
Because it is very challenging to become mindful and practice meditation, what I call “under the gun,” we need to cultivate a daily practice. Ideally, it should be a short and sweet yoga practice crafted by a skilled Viniyoga teacher.
What is Meditation?
Put, meditation (or yoga) is a game of attention. We are not trying to get rid of anything. Instead, think of this time to become friends with yourself.
A teacher can help us to choose an object of meditation. It can be anything from celestial bodies (moon, sun, or stars), natural objects (mountains, lakes, or forest). If a student believes in some deity (we can meditate on them), or it could be ideas like feelings of ease and gratitude. Since we all unique, it really helps to be guided by a skilled teacher, at least to start with. Typically, the session would include some physical movement to prepare the body, followed by breathing and easing into the mindful practice. Then, of course, you can experiment and try different techniques.
The Viniyoga style requires a student to study and practice a single meditation tradition for a long time. In our instant gratification society, it could be challenging. Nonetheless, the benefit of the practice is undeniable.
Leading Viniyoga Teachers
As always, I only recommend what I practice. So, the following list of my teachers that I know, love, and trust. Like me, they all teach in the Viniyoga lineage of T. Krishnamacharya and T. K. V. Desikachar.
Chase Bossart – is my primary teacher and mentor that I can’t recommend enough. He is a director of Yoga Well Institute Director. Chase Bossart teaches a weekly half-hour online meditation class, followed by a bi-weekly Therapeutic Applications of Meditation online class.
Gary Kraftsow – I took many therapeutic workshops and practiced meditation. He is another fantastic teacher. Gary Kraftsow is the founder of the American Viniyoga Institute.
Jeffrey B. Rubin – was teaching mediation during my 700-hour yoga teacher training. In addition to teaching meditation, he is psychoanalysis, psychoanalysis, and psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapy.
How to start right now (10-minute practice)
- Find a place where you can be undisturbed.
- Get the timer, a piece of paper, and a pen.
- Set the time for five minutes
- Write down how you feel in straightforward terms and a few sentences.
- Don’t take more than five minutes to jolt a few notes.
- Find a comfortable sitting position. You don’t have to sit in any pose. Ensure your spine is upright.
- Set the timer for five minutes.
- Observe your breath. Where is your inhale comes from? How does it feel to exhale, where the exile comes from?
- Next, deepen your breath, breathing through the nose, with ease, inhaling on the count of four, exhaling on the count of four, repeat for 12 times; each time you inhale, feel your chest expanding, each time you exhale, feel your belly slightly contracting. Alternatively, if you can’t focus on your breath, try to listen to your favorite music for five minutes, feeling the music more. Or you can focus on the sensations in your body, feeling your eyelids, or your fingers. Don’t pick anything that hurts.
- If your mind wanders, return without any judgment to your practice.
- Take a few more minutes and write down how you feel.
In conclusion, the practice of meditation is available to all of us. We can grow our capacity to become more intuitive, to deal better with stress. Most importantly, the practice of mindfulness brings us closer to who we indeed are, stripping the layers of negativity and limitations imposed by our society, teacher, or self-doubts and constraints.