Today I enjoyed a swim in Lake Huron; I found a warm shallow spot and squatted so that the water was at my chin. I remained like this for some time and let the warm water wash over me, my gaze was transfixed on the water as it was sparkling in the sunlight. My soul was at peace; in an instant I felt balanced. I rested there for a long time, with closed eyes; I drifted into a lucid calm state. As the waves came and went, some were subtle, some stronger. While in the water I moved with the flow and adjusted in order to maintain balance; it was graceful and intuitive. When I was hit by a stronger wave I lost my balance and watched my automatic response, which was a mix of fear and grasping. I asked myself "do I let this loss of ground unravel me or do I focus on making adjustments?" After I stopped struggling I easily regained my footing. I felt grateful for this experience and for nature because it is a wonderful teacher for me; it speaks to me and shows me the way. I caught a glimpse of understanding related to equanimity.
Previously, I had believed that cultivating more moments of balance and peace would lead me down a path to having more equanimity in my life. However, today I realized there is valuable learning when I lose my footing. When I stumble it is an opportunity for reflection and growth. And so I dug a little deeper and asked myself: how do I respond when I feel suddenly unbalanced? Do I cling; become indifferent; treat myself with kindness, withdraw, beat myself up: give myself a break; go into action mode because the situation requires this; get angry because my peace has been interrupted; toss & turn at night; internalize and feel sick over it? The answer was: I do all of these things.
My experience today showed me another way to cultivate equanimity … next time I feel that punch in my gut in response to a difficult situation, I am going to recall how it felt in my body to move in the waves and make adjustments when necessary & will ask myself what I need. And I will try to listen and be open and accepting of the answer.
The following quote by Paul Gilbert reminds me of what I learned today in Lake Huron:
“May I have the courage to face suffering where I see it and to acquire the wisdom to do something about it in the wisest way possible”
Paul Gilbert is a British clinical psychologist. He is the founder of Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT).