Perhaps you are familiar with the word ‘equanimity’. Or, perhaps it’s a new word in your vocabulary. Before I knew the meaning, it suggested to me a sense of balance, something solid to stand on. I really like this word.


What does it look like when there’s equanimity?

Presence. Focus. Understanding. Openness. Possibility. To me it looks like leaders who listen with curiosity, who open to not knowing, who see and respect everyone, who bring humanity into the workplace. Leaders who dream with purpose and passion and believe that great things are possible through intentional thought and productive action.

How do we find equanimity?

Myriad ways. We’re all different. Our paths are different. A big part of finding equaniminty, seems to me, is awareness: awareness of the stories that play in our minds. Followed by intention: intentional shifting of words and thoughts that are not serving us or others. Reframing our negative stories. Paying attention to what’s working. Visualizing success.

At the heart of our thoughts are words. Powerful words. Words shape what’s possible. I’ve read that we have somewhere between 16,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s A LOT of thoughts…a lot of words. Words that carry meaning. Words associated with feelings. Words tied to experiences. Words allowing us express how we feel. Words helping us envision our dreams. Words that impact us, physically, emotionally, mentally. Words that impact others, how they feel, how they are inspired to act.

What words repeat in the stories running through your mind? How are these words serving you?

Sometimes my stories are mean and ugly and hurtful, like little wars – that hurt me, that hurt others. Sometimes they are beautiful songs – that touch me, that touch others. I like the songs better than the war. And, while I’m still accepting that I’m not perfect and that life is simply a mix of what I might call good and bad, where I can, I am noticing and being intentional about my impact – on myself and on others. I am shifting and making adjustments when I notice words and thoughts that limit me so that I can respond versus react.

Take time to pause and connect with what’s important. 

One of the ways that I support myself in finding the words that serve best is taking time to pause, time to connect with what’s important. That might be time with my husband, Jim, walking together side-by-side in nature. That might be time with my girlfriends, sharing our experiences and connecting with each other. That might be reading something inspiring and reflecting on its meaning.

And, that might be practicing mindfulness meditation with my lovely friend Katiuscia Berretta. Over the past several years, I’ve had the honor of learning about mindfulness and the neuroscience of meditation from her. We just completed leading together our fifth mindfulness practice series at work. One of the beautiful gifts of this series was a guided practice Kat led that was focused on resilience and equanimity – it invited us to be like a bamboo tree (which was inspired by Osho’s Be A Hollow Bamboo). I’ll close with a poem that came to me after our practice together. May it invite the possibility of equanimity for you…

BE like the bamboo tree
by Vicki L. Flaherty

BE like the bamboo tree.
Your roots deep in the earth,
enduring cold winter storms.
Accepting the snow on your branches
until you can no longer.
When the white heaviness falls away,
let it go – and gently bend back.
Resilient, now stronger.

BE like the bamboo tree.
You stretch toward the sky,
standing strong in the summer sun.
Swaying in the warm breeze,
to mother nature’s song.
As the light shines on you,
receive it – and grow.
Resilient, now taller.

BE like the bamboo tree.
Your branches hollow.
No judgements or beliefs inside.
Just this openness inside you.
A place of deep knowing,
where nothing is needed.
Present with this spaciousness.
Resilient, now fully awake.

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* I took this photo of a clover flower over the summer when on a trip to Michigan.


3 thoughts on “Equanimity

  1. Vicki, what a beautiful poem. I’m feeling sad about some things that I see unfolding, or more accurately, NOT unfolding as I would like. The concept of equanimity is an important one to keep things balanced in my own thinking.

    • Sunita, thank you. May the idea of equanimity help you move through the things making you sad. When I catch myself having an emotion that I don’t like, I try to remind myself that having these feelings means I am alive, and I ask what their presence might tell me. I’m curious what you find as you open with equanimity to all that is before you. Thank you for your friendship – and all the equanimity you invite into our workplace.

  2. Pingback: 2017’s Wisdom | Leading With Intention

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