Life on Earth does not make it easy to find equanimity. People, responsibilities, habits, fears, events … there is a myriad of forces that work against you and against us all to disturb the fragile balancing act going on in the mind.
While consciousness is a blessing, it is also a curse. And one of the ways that the curse manifests itself is in our ability to ruminate. We are all masters at it. We ruminate on what we have/want, what we don’t have/want, what has happened, what is happening, and even what hasn’t happened yet or may not happen at all, but we imagine it anyway because we cannot help ourselves. (Conscious minds are by nature creative minds, so keep it in mind that creativity can destroy as much as it can build. More on this later.)
Simply put: Negative life forces and emotions happen to us all and that cannot be helped, but we sure do a great job of making sure those negative forces and emotions stick to us. So, we spin. And spin and spin and spin. We careen out of control and equanimity seems out of reach. What can be done?
After some research and practice, I offer 2 simple methods to restore equanimity, especially when emotions are high and you are in a state of uncontrolled imbalance. These are methods I have used myself, and I can tell you that for me, they have helped. I’m here to share!
- You have a heart chakra. Learn to use it. First, let me say that I realize that not everyone is going to buy into the idea of chakras. And I get it. To be honest, I find it hard to believe in “chakras” as a physical reality, too.
But, in the interest of finding balance, I suggest that you don’t get caught up in semantics. Think of it this way: Everyone has experienced emotion translating itself physically in the heart. To say otherwise would be dishonest. It is a universal human experience: Your heart center can feel warm and full when you are happy, and it can be physically painful when you are sad. Most people can attest that the concept of “heartbreak” is NOT always figurative; you FEEL it.
So whether you believe in a space called a “chakra” or not, you have felt that heart space physically as a manifestation of your emotional state. That is the space I am talking about.
So let’s assume, for the moment, that you CAN actually control that space IF you choose to.
So here we go ….
~How to Use Your Heart Chakra/Heart Space to Filter Out Things that Disturb Your Mind~
When you are experiencing negative emotions/thoughts, first imagine your heart space opening up. Smack dab center of the chest, but it may feel slightly lower or off to the side of your heart and that’s OK. If you find it difficult to imagine, that’s also OK! Allow that difficulty to exist, and imagine yourself gently encouraging it, in whatever way your creative mind accomplishes that. However, listen to your body always. If it ever feels overwhelming in an unwelcome way, back off to the level you are comfortable with. Some have to build up the tolerance to have it open (even partially), because it is a bit intense!
Also, keep in mind that trying too hard can work against you. If you are struggling or feeling frustrated, back off. Ease up! Let it be natural. Your ability to open it more easily, even to the point of effortlessly, is highly likely to improve over time, too.
Do not be surprised if you feel your heart area physically open. It tends to feel deep. In my case it feels “weighty” or somehow heavier in that spot, but not in a bad way. I suspect it can vary. If you do feel any sensation, just roll with it (as long as you are otherwise comfortable) and take it as a good sign! But imagining it open without feeling anything physical is perfectly OK and will work for this exercise.
If you have the luxury of assuming a meditative pose, that will help you. Meaning, if you can be lying down/sitting down, with eyes closed … go for it. But, it is not a requirement for this to work. If you are driving in your car, walking down the aisle of the grocery store, whatever….you can still do this.
Once concentrated on an open space within your heart center and once you are ready, channel all negative emotions and thoughts into that heart space. FILL IT. STUFF IT ALL IN THERE. Imagine it all leaving your brain, your stomach, your toes….wherever you deem it to live….and imagine it all eagerly flowing into the now-open, even welcoming, heart chakra. Guide it there. It may take time; people vary. You will know when you are ready for the next step.
Once that negativity is concentrated in your heart, imagine that space spinning. As crude as it is, at times I think of it almost like a food processor, churning all those chunks of negativity into an easily digestible smoothie. Concentrate on this process for as long as it feels helpful to do so. Again, if you feel a spinning sensation…great! If not, that’s perfectly fine.
While you spin away, feel or imagine the love and source energy that naturally lives in your heart blending into the mixture and soothing/softening that negativity. If you think I don’t feel like a total cornball saying that, you are very, very wrong. But do it, just do it. If you feel what I’m talking about, then you’ll be a cornball right alongside me, but you’ll be more balanced, too.
Then, when you feel better and when you feel ready, imagine your heart gently and fully closing (this is essential!), keeping that now neutralized “emotional soup” away from your now-much-more-centered mind.
Breathe, breathe, breathe. Always breathe!
Repeat as necessary.
~A quick aside about heart vs. brain processing~
At this point, you might be wondering why you would process negativity in your heart, not your brain. After all, your heart may be physically hurting…so don’t you want to remove that terrible feeling from the heart, not put MORE terrible feeling into it?
No, you don’t. Because the heart is NOT the source of your pain. When you feel heartache, I believe that what you are actually feeling is your emotions knocking at the door of your heart chakra, begging to come in and be healed by the power that only exists in this heart space. (Again, there is a part of me that can’t help but think that is seriously icky, new-agey bullshit. And perhaps you have the same reaction, and obviously I can’t blame you for it. But put aside what you think you know, because it may be the best thing for you. An opinion can always be solidified after you have tried something new; an educated opinion is always the best kind, right?)
Consider that actively using your heart to heal your pain is actually innate and natural in all of us; we instinctually want to do this when our emotions are out of control, we just don’t exercise that muscle because we’ve been taught NOT to.
What we have been taught is the application of the principles of psychology/psychiatry, at the exclusion of all else, to fix our troubles. In short, we are taught that all your troubles are in your brain, and you need to deal with it in your brain, and that’s that. But it’s a FLAWED belief. Not knocking it, I’ve seen it help and I’ve experienced benefits myself, but it weren’t lacking, cognitive therapy and medicating would be more successful than it actually is (that’s not my opinion, that’s the result of multiple scientific studies on the subject, not to mention what I’ve seen personally; hasn’t everyone?).
You need to consider that we, as a society, have not done ourselves many favors in the last few thousand years. Western civilization in particular opted out of a lot of natural, universal truths about ourselves and our humanity. We focus on individual identity, not universal identity. I submit to you that, maybe just maybe, Eastern philosophy was and is on to something, but the West went in a different direction, and it may not have been the best for us. But that is another topic for another day.
But for now, consider that within your brain naturally lies your well-meaning but self-driven ego, and within your heart lies natural energy of a universal source well and far beyond your little ol’ self (and note: I never said a Judeo-Christian concept of God or any other omnipotent “God” figure, but if that’s how you want to think of it, feel free). If you can allow that as a possibility, which do you think would be more powerful in processing emotions/troubles?
Aside over…… let’s get back to it……
Now that you’ve gone so far as to consider the above exercise, keep reading and find out about my favorite equanimity-building tool…..and it is……..
- Imagine Yourself at Peace. It’s not just a mushy idea exposited by John Lennon in a song.
As alluded to earlier, not only are we humans brilliant at letting negative forces and emotions toy with us unchecked and wantonly, we also LOVE to add a diabolical element to it all … what I like to call Painful Invention: The act of imagining yourself in a heart-wrenching scenario.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. You imagine a painful event you fear will happen. You imagine a hurtful conversation taking place. You imagine terrible, awful rejection or epic, terrifying failure. You just imagine HURT IN SOME FORM…hurt squarely aimed at YOU. So that whatever is wrong not only stays wrong, but it gets WORSE. Again….rumination. We just love it.
I submit that our ability and, quite frankly, our penchant for Painful Invention is just as, or even more, damaging than the painful truth that already lies before us that we need to deal with.
And by the way, there is obviously truth we need to deal with and we are obviously very capable of ruminating on what has already taken place and reliving THOSE scenes over and over….so let’s just call that Painful Recall.
So why do we do this? Well, I’m not sure. We don’t MEAN to. We are complex creatures with advanced thinking ability (relatively speaking). And again, we are conscious and therefore we are creative. And that creativity can be used to enrich us greatly, but it can also be used to break us down.
But Painful Invention AND Painful Recall are nothing but poison, ultimately. They serve no purpose and will do a bang-up job at destroying your mind and, of course, any chance at equanimity.
The solution that I have unearthed in my research, and that I am suggesting, is so beautifully simple: Imagine yourself at peace.
~How to Stop Painful Invention or Painful Recall by Imagining Peace ~
Just as before, a meditative state is great if you can do it, but not necessary.
When your mind places you in a painful scenario, invented or recalled, stop the reel. Easy for me to say, I know, but try. In its place, picture yourself at peace. Again, open up that heart space, as outlined above, while you are doing it.
I find it best to keep it simple. Imagine yourself as a central image without the canvas of a specific time or place.
I also find it helpful sometimes to imagine a warm, pleasant, white light surrounding me, protecting me. Sometimes I picture it as a physical light that I turn on, like a lightbulb over my head. And then just soak it in. And smile, if you can. Just a little smile, you can do it! Let the peace take you over.
I find that sometimes it makes me feel floaty, so I go ahead and imagine myself floating. If you find that helpful as well, do it.
If there is someone who is part of your pain “story,” i.e., part of the drama in your head, and you want to share that light and peace with them in your heart and mind, feel free to do so; imagine him or her with you in the experience. But do so only if you find it helps/brings you greater comfort, because this is about you and your personal equanimity.
Or, you can bring in someone who, in your mind, can put you at ease. Living, deceased, even a pet, and even a person/being that doesn’t exist in your physical life can be brought in if that is what makes you happy (i.e, some people like to imagine an angel, or a spiritual guide, or a religious figure) … the only thing that matters is that it is someone you want with you as support.
Where you take it is personal and up to you. None of the above suggestions are “requirements”…the only ingredient needed for this to work is you imagining yourself at peace.
Remember that when you are ready to “come back to Earth”, do so gently, and always be sure to close that heart chakra/space back up. Think of it as protecting that space (you can’t have it open all the time; you need to be mindful that this is your energy now exposed, and you would also be open to the energy of others)
You may find that once you bring this into your life, you’ll want to use it a lot, even if you aren’t in turmoil at the moment. It’s just a lovely exercise. But depending on the depth of your meditative state it can drain you, so don’t overdo it (your mind won’t allow it anyway; it has a way of short-circuiting your “frequencies” if you try to overuse them). And keep in mind that you don’t have to concentrate super-hard each time; there are times where my peaceful moment is lazily sketched, for lack of a better way to put it, but it is all I need to make the thought in the back of my head one that is at peace with everything. The most important thing is taking your mind out of negative emotional fuckery as necessary. Same goes for the heart exercise. Listen to your “higher self” (i.e, the “voice in the back of your mind”) telling you what you need, whether it is more or less intensity needed to get your balance in check.
And remember 2 final, very important details: (1) You may have to practice either or both of these tools. There is no guarantee it will work for you the first time. And the likelihood that you’ll be doing these tools and your brain will try to bring you right back to your pain point is very likely, and you’ll have to try to correct the ship as you go. As said before, it’s a muscle that you have to build up. But if you take the time to try, I think you will find that at least one will serve you, and your peace of mind, very well. (2) You are not a perfect creature. There are moments in which you will ruminate. You just WILL. There are days that you just cannot help but feel emotional pain; or you cannot help but recalling a time that changed everything for you or thinking of “what if” scenarios. There are even times, I’ll boldly state, when you will need a little temporary darkness for a few hours, even a day, to reach a new level of understanding and enlightenment. But no matter what: BE KIND TO YOURSELF. It’s all a process; it’s all a journey. That’s just life. All you should require of yourself is that you are more mindful of it all.
Believe that everything happens as it should, and uncover your true inner voice as much as you can.
With Love, Lady Equanimity