Most mornings I listen to a guided meditation by Jeff Warren on my iPhone's Calm app. Fairly frequently Warren talks about equanimity.
One way he describes equanimity is as a 360 degree openness.
I like that image. I picture myself sitting in a chair that rotates in a full circle so I can see everything through the panoramic window of my mind.
The stuff I like. The stuff I don't like. Worries. Problems. Joys. Challenges. Pleasantness. Irritations. Whatever.
To alter the metaphor a bit, I picture my mind's panoramic 360 degree window as not being made of glass, but having a screen that allows a free flow of mental circulation.
If there's too much pressure on the inside of my mind, the flow goes outward through the screen until the pressure is equalized, equal inside and outside.
If there's too much pressure on the outside of my mind, the flow goes inward through the screen until the pressure is equalized, equal outside and inside.
Calm. Smoothness. Accepting everything as it is, whether good, bad, or indifferent. I found a quote from Jeff Warren about this.
Of course, that inner smoothness is easy to talk about yet difficult to attain.
Still, we can become more smooth, more frictionless, even if there are still lumps in our mind that prevent a total feeling of equanimity.
On a somewhat related note, recently I read an interesting article in the New Yorker, "The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence."
This is a review of the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the well-known book by Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence. It presents persuasive arguments why, to put it crudely, the whole notion of emotional intelligence as promulgated by Goleman is a bunch of crap.
I see this as related to Jeff Warren's equanimity because Goleman puts forward an idealized view of how people should act.
The introduction to the anniversary edition is the only significant update to “Emotional Intelligence.” To read the book today is to unearth a time capsule, polished to a fine gleam, and to recall an era when a journalist like Goleman could still speak with untroubled optimism about the power of self-control and compassion to overcome “an onslaught of mean-spirited impulse running amok.”
...Goleman promises to show his readers how to free themselves from the “emotional hijacking” of the brain by biochemical surges, the body’s unwitting tendency to set off its own “neural tripwire.” This language, with its hints of terrorism and home invasion, encourages readers to stay alert, continually monitoring their reactions in order to bring them in line with accepted rituals of emotional expression.
It is a vision of personal freedom achieved, paradoxically, through constant self-regulation. “Emotional Intelligence” imagines a world constituted of little more than a series of civil interactions between employer and employee, husband and wife, friend and neighbor. People are linked by nothing more than, as Foucault summarized, the “instinct, sentiment, and sympathy” that underwrite their mutual success and their shared “repugnance for the misfortune of individuals” who cannot get a grip on their inner lives.
Well, I don't like the idea of constant self-regulation. I don't want to feel required to get a grip on my inner life.
That way entails, as the book reviewer notes, a continual monitoring of our reactions to ensure they are emotionally acceptable.
I much prefer the Jeff Daniels approach to equanimity.
Remain open to what is happening inside and outside of you. Acknowledge all that. Don't push any of it away. Allow yourself to flow as smoothly as possible with whatever you are thinking, feeling, experiencing.
Don't worry about being emotionally intelligent. Just be yourself.