How do we develop equanimity?

As we said, Equanimity means to keep cool even in difficult situations and not get triggered in response to what others say or do.

Keeping cool does appear to come naturally to some people. For most of us though, it takes intentionality and practice. The good news however, is that it is a learnable skill. We can learn how to respond to others based on our values rather than react angrily to something they said that triggers us.

How do we develop equanimity?

The first step is to recognize and understand the concept itself.

When someone pushes our buttons or triggers us, there are several physiological signals that tell us that we getting triggered and in danger of reacting. Our breathing becomes more shallow, the heart begins to race, we may begin to feel a build up of tension in our muscles (especially in the hands, the neck and shoulders), we might feel pressure building up behind our eyes, or in our temples.

All these are the body's signal that it is going into fight or flight mode. What we don't notice are several other processes happening inside the body and the rush of hormones that are preparing the body to fight, to flee or to freeze. Once the chain reaction starts in the body, it shuts down the thinking centers of the brain so that the body can focus on the danger at hand and take action rather than waste time to analyze the situation.

Can we stop this chain reaction once it starts? YES! We can stop it by beginning to notice the symptoms as soon as they start. Once we notice the symptoms such as shallow breathing or tense muscles, we can pause at any time, take a breathe and remind ourselves what is going on inside. The sooner we notice what is going on and pause, the easier it is to calm ourselves down.

So lets practice this by noticing what is going on inside our bodies when someone is saying something we are about to react to. Let us mentally flick a switch that shines a light of awareness on the process that is going on.

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