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Peace. Stress hormones, particularly the queen of ‘em, cortisol, normalizes. Briefly. Not too high. Not too low. Tank full, even overflowing, and it’s the overflow I give to others—my family and friends, my clients, my book. When I'm in my equanimitous zone, I have time to meditate each morning for 20 minutes, to write, to move in ways I love, such as yoga and dance. I get along with my husband and brim with love for my children. I stay in touch with my mom, in-laws, even my ailing grandfather. Then, inevitably, equanimity is broken. Kids fight. Really fight… it’s come to blows. I overspent in my integrative medicine practice on help. My sister needs surgery. Figured out something huge this year: The nature of equanimity is that it is constantly interrupted. I am perpetually trying to impose order—scratch that: straining to provide order—to an inherently disordered system. It’s like the flight I was just on from San Francisco to Dubai. The path between is not a straight line, but a series of constant tacking back and forth with an average that becomes a line from A to B. As 2012 beckons, I’m considering the many ways in which I felt in alignment and out-of-alignment this past year with equanimity. I noted the same in my clients. And, I drew some conclusions and put the signs of being misaligned into a 3-phase schema. That’s what I do on vacation. How about you? Signs of Misalignment Phase 1: Early Signs of Misalignment. - Desire to escape (for me: into fine Cabernet Savignon or perhaps social media instead of doing the work or READING or LEARNING (I've figured out this is not always in my best interest but is my default patterning). Or email. Or more babysitter hours for the kids. - Can't hear voice (inner divinity or intuition, grace, god consciousness, whatever you may like to call it) or voice is rather faint. - I strain and push. Lose easefulness of daily life. - Thoughts erode (e.g., ugh, it's so damn cold this morning). Pessimism. Overly reductionistic. Black/white thinking. - I go on meditation holiday (Too busy to do what I most need). Perhaps I should call it more of a binge of non-meditation or inattentiveness - I cut corners with the quality of my fuel. A bit of chocolate or sugar or gluten sneaks in & rattles my equanimity. - Cortisol rises. - I sleep less. - Psychic, ambient pain begins to rise. Start of slippery slope. Phase 2: Moderate Signs of Misalignment - My fuel tank is half empty - I become more rigid in my thinking, behavior and relationships - Clients irritate me. My kids irritate me. - Supplements become erratic. - I start reaching for the higher-level solutions instead of the basics, the foundational parts that most serve me (I forget yet again about Pareto's 80/20 rule! Oy) - I lose power: what I intend to put into motion (with kids, partner, clients, blog) doesn't come across. Misinterpretations and misrepresentations abound. - Less open to conversation. - I over provide in my biz & at home (and then resent & get irritable). - Overwhelm becomes my middle name. Phase 3: Late Signs of Misalignment - Depleted. What fuel tank? Empty. Fumes. - Shadow side of my personality gets reflected back to me everywhere, and I'm so not grateful - Distracted, inattentive. Lose keys. Lose papers. Sometimes kids. - Scarcity everywhere. - Not writing. - Husband annoying. - Fights with girlfriends & kids - I don't call my mom or sisters - I want an elaborate vacation from my medical practice - I wonder if I'm not cut out for motherhood/doctoring. Self-doubt. - Head in sand financially. - Binge on escapes (food, vacation, exercise) - Burnout As a yoga teacher and eternal student of ancient wisdom, I often turn to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras for help when I'm misaligned. Patajali states that equanimity is one of the four sublime attitudes. The others? Loving-kindness (maitri), compassion (karuṇā) and joy (mudita). Good reminder to track not just equanimity, but the other sublime attitudes too. Just like the airplane’s tack back-and-forth to get to its destination, I have signs that I’m in alignment, held without the weird rigidity of Phase 2. Here's my list. Signs I'm Aligned 1. Meditate every morning. Non-negotiable. 2. Sleep/Food/Movement are flexy but consistent 3. Fuel tank full or even overflowing (and overflow is what I give to others) 4. Gratitude. Daily inventory. 5. Clear/direct communication 6. In my POWER 7. Accountable What’s your list? How do you know you’re misaligning?