Equanimity is the ability to be balanced even when facing difficult circumstance. Its attributes are mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper especially in the midst of difficult situations. These can be difficult qualities to embody especially when working with students.
Due to the nature of teaching, educators must make countless choices throughout the day and because of stress and other pressures it can be difficult to stay emotionally balance. However, successful educators are often able to face this pressure and support their students because they can keep cool and maintain their love for the job. Luckily equanimity is a state of mind that can help all educators and can be cultivated with mindfulness.
Researchers"describe equanimity as a state and dispositional tendency that can be developed over time through specific contemplative practices.” It is a particular way of seeing and experiencing situations. They explain, "equanimity transforms our sensory-perceptual and cognitive-emotional systems to widen our perspective on experience, more readily engage incoming sensory information, and more efficiently disengage cognitive-evaluative and emotional-reactive behaviors when appropriate.”
In other words, equanimity means having a greater understanding of an experience in a way that doesn’t illicit judgment or a strong emotional response. This quality of mind is extremely helpful to educators who often must contend with complex situations and support the varied academic and social and emotional needs of students.
In addition, equanimity also supports wellbeing. The researchers of the aforementioned article conclude that "equanimity captures potentially the most important psychological element in the improvement of well-being.” Having a greater understanding of why we are feeling a certain way, or why our students behave and perform as they do, can support us in not overreacting and having greater emotional balance.
We might, for example, remember that we didn’t get enough sleep the night before or that our students might be stressed about an upcoming exam. Knowing those things can help us understand situations with a bit more wisdom and can help us have greater compassion for ourselves and our students. This kind of insight helps us make more skillful choices and supports healthy relationships, which is good for everyone’s wellbeing.
Mindfulness Supports Equanimity
As the authors also mention, contemplative practices such as mindfulness support developing equanimity. Mindfulness supports this quality of mind because it strengthens the ability to bring awareness with kindness and curiosity to a situation, and orients us towards cultivating calm and concentration.
This sense of assurance help us remain calm and allows us to focus on what truly matters at any given moment. Having strong emotional responses often get in the way of seeing things clearly and sometimes force us to act in unkind and unwise ways, which only create more complications and rarely help us resolve a conflict or misunderstanding. They also tend to exacerbate an already challenging situation because it can add to a sense of overwhelm and despair.
Equanimity shouldn’t be confused with aloofness or not caring, however, which presents itself with not wanting to engage with or disassociating from an experience. Equanimity is the ability to use our capacity for understanding and greater perspective so we’re not carried away by our emotions. It does not mean we ignore how we feel.
We acknowledge the circumstance and bring kind and curious awareness to it. Equanimity arises from our non-judgmental awareness—or the ability to see and feel without getting caught up in any given situation so we can maintain a sense of balance or peace. Bringing this approach into the classroom can help us address our students’ needs more effectively and will help us make more skillful choices as we balance all the pressure of teaching.
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ABOUT ARGOS GONZÁLEZ:
Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor. He has 13 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY. Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY. For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Argos by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.