Equanimity is the ability to remain peaceful, whatever we experience or observe. Social equanimity is the ability to remain peaceful, whomever we experience or observe.
THOSE WHO IRRITATE US
Some of our contacts will irritate us. We will experience their behaviour as annoying or upsetting, and it will pain us as though we had some kind of illness symptom. Common reactions of this kind can include headaches, stomach upset, feeling sick, mental confusion, and wanting to get away.
This is understandable – our bodies have a natural response to anything which they deem likely to cause us difficulty. Hence, if we encounter a person, and judge them likely to cause difficulty to us, then we will experience some of these physical effects.
THOSE WHO ATTRACT US
In contrast, some of our contacts will attract us. We will experience their behaviour as interesting or pleasurable, and it will make us feel better, as though we have received medicine. Common responses of this kind can include a sense of ease or peace, laughter, smiling, enhanced eye or body contact, and wanting to be close.
This, again, is understandable – our bodies have a natural response to anyone whom we deem likely to help us. Hence, if we encounter a person, and judge them likely to make life easier for us, then we will experience some of these more pleasant physical effects.
THOSE WHOM WE TREAT WITH EQUANIMITY
Finally, and most importantly, some of our contacts will leave us with a relatively even response. We will experience them as neither painful nor pleasurable. Our body stays pretty much where it is, and we remain in control of our movements, not minding whether we stay or go. This is most common when we encounter a person, and judge them as neither likely to cause difficulty, nor likely to help us.
A RECOMMENDED MEDITATION
Close your eyes. Bring to mind someone who irritates you, and place them on your right side. Then bring to mind someone who pleases you, and place them on your left side. Finally, bring to mind someone who doesn’t really evoke either response in you (i.e. brings you equanimity), and place them in front of you.
First, consider the person on your right, the irritating one. What is it that you experience, and why? Do not blame the person, but focus on your own reaction. Identify what it is, in you, that is reacting. Perhaps the person piques your pride; or makes you feel vulnerable; or makes you feel disrespected.
Second, consider the person on your left, the pleasurable person. What is it that you experience, and why? Do not attribute this to the person, but again focus on your own reaction. Identify what it is, in you, that is responding. Perhaps the person strokes your pride; or perhaps they don’t challenge you as others do; or perhaps they feed your need to be respected.
Third, contemplate the person in front of you, the one who brings you equanimity. This is the feeling you are trying to generate, so stay with it. Understand what it feels like not to mind, to be free of either repulsion or attraction. Experience how peaceful it can be. Experience the absence of anxiety.
After a while, return to the person on your right, and analyse that experience again. Then the person on your left. Then back to the person in front of you. And so on.
The overall aim is to bring yourself to a clear understanding of the irritations and attractions that distract you from peaceful equanimity. If you can, try to bring the three objects closer and closer together, so that the left and the right merge into the person in front of you. Then try to hold all three people in the same focus, with equanimity.
We experience social peace when we are free of either irritation or attraction.
At first, this is not natural to us, and we sway with the wind, a victim of both irritating and attractive people and experiences.
We can train ourselves to retain equanimity in all social situations. This keeps us free, peaceful, non-judgemental, and focused.