Maintaining equanimity in adverse situations


How can one maintain equanimity in dealing with adverse situations or people in day-to-day life? Are there any specific methods (apart from regular meditation) like observing body reactions/emotions recommended by Yoganandaji, which can be used to avoid any abrupt reactions during a confronting situation? Please provide a detailed insight into that methodology. The purpose is to maintain equanimity "always". Thank you!

—Sid, India


Dear Sid,

You are right. Yogananda suggests that we remain “even-minded and cheerful” under all circumstances. You are also right inthat meditation is the number one way to achieve that state in daily life.

However, he also suggests that you practice self-observation, introspection, and self-control at all times. Always carefully observe your harmful (to you and to others) emotional reactions. They are easy to notice. Physiologically, the heartbeat speeds up, the hands and body perspire more, the breath patterns change to shallow and uneven, and so on.

When you notice these things happening to you, you can know it is time to pray and then to withdraw into your inner center, at least mentally. You still may need to remain engaged with whatever adverse situation or person(s) are confronting you, but you definitely can change the way you respond.

Techniques: Make it a point to breathe slowly and deeply. Inwardly, put your attention at your spiritual eye. Silently pray for help for yourself and for the person or situation, which is causing you distress. If there is time to do it, remove yourself to a quiet place for even a few minutes—the better to be able to get calm and centered very quickly. Practice responding calmly and appropriately. You’ll find yourself getting better at it as time goes by.

It is always better to respond appropriately, than to react with emotional attachment. Negative emotions are always caused by attachments. We often want things to be different from the way they are. Perhaps we are sure that they really do need to be different from the way they are! Maybe we are right!

Nevertheless, the first step is to accept things exactly as they are, without judgement or emotional response. Then, as you pray for help and become inwardly centered and very calm, you’ll know much better how to respond in a helpful way, rather than in a way which just makes things worse for you and for the situation or person you are encountering. If at all possible, wait to speak or take action until you are centered and calm.

If you feel disturbed or upset with someone, know that it really is more your problem, not theirs. This is because you have let them “get your goat.” Yogananda loved this expression and translated it this way: “Your ‘goat’ means your state of inner peace.” Don’t allow a person or situation ever to take away your state of inner peace!” Again, this is not easy to do, but we can work on it every day and then see how doing it helps us to have a MUCH happier life.