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More than calm  

One of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness is that it’s all about trying to be calm. Mindfulness reveals its liberating power when savoring calm becomes a gateway into not needing to be calm.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of relaxation. It’s great when it shows up on its own. It’s a relief when I’m able to coax it into appearing or spreading. But when I’m experiencing physical or emotional discomfort, trying to force myself to calm down just increases my internal friction.

Internal friction is what I call the unease we experience when there’s a gap between whatever is happening and what we wish were happening instead. Physical pain, emotional pain, and confusion can dramatically increase the size of that gap. The wider the gap, the stronger the friction. 

Equanimity shrinks this gap and reduces internal friction. Sometimes by a little. Sometimes by a lot. 

What is equanimity? 

Equanimity is the ability to allow a sensory perception to play out without trying to change it. It’s an attentional skill you already have that gets stronger when you exercise it habitually. 

Equanimity isn’t conceptual. It’s visceral. It’s a natural but often counter-instinctual way of relating to sensory perceptions with less interference. It occurs at the level of real-time sensation. 

It reminds me of something parents discover when caring for a baby. 

Sometimes babies get tired and fall asleep while you’re holding them. 

Sometimes babies get fussy and rocking or singing helps soothe them. 

Sometimes babies get upset and inconsolable and all we can do is hold them gently and keep them safe until they settle back down. In these moments, we’re initiated—often against our will—into the tribe of vulnerable, resilient, caring parents who are doing the best they can. 

Equanimity is at play in all three of these scenarios, but its liberating power is revealed when we encounter discomforts that we’re unable to resolve. When confronted with the limits of our control, we can discover what we’re able to hold.

With mindfulness, we’re calibrating our ability to hold a deeper, broader, more complicated variety of sensations through practice. Each repetition of mindful awareness lasts a handful of seconds

When a sensory perception is pleasant, savoring it without trying to change it strengthens your ability to be equanimous with comfortable sensations. This helps you get more enjoyment out of being calm. 

When a sensory perception is unpleasant, noticing it without trying to fix it—for a few seconds at a time—teaches you how to relax the urge to fight with uncomfortable sensations. This prepares you to not make challenging moments worse. 

Being calm requires, reveals, and develops equanimity, but you can also practice being equanimous even in the absence of calm. 

With a bit of courage and curiosity, you could soon be surprised to discover how much richer your life can feel when lived with a little less internal friction. 


Live Online Practice Support

I’ve probably learned more from other meditators by practicing with them in silence than I’ve learned from talking about meditation with them. I feel lucky to be able to offer both types of support on a consistent basis—in spite of the safety constraints related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Practice in silence without instruction: 
  • I host virtual meditation sessions every weekday morning from 7—8:00 am ET on Facebook and Instagram Live. Practice with me whenever you want for as long as you like. 
  • On Sunday evenings from 8—8:30 pm EDT, a few of us hop on Zoom to practice for a few minutes to reset for the coming week. 
Group practice with instruction and discussion:
  • Wednesday evening from 7—8:30 pm EDT, Zoom
  • Saturday morning from 10—11:00 am EDT, Zoom 
Check out my practice page for details and links to all of these live practice options. 

There is no charge for these sessions. Optional donations are accepted through Venmo, PayPal, and Squarespace.

Meditation Celebration Sit-a-thon

Sunday, October 25, 2020
PT 0700-0900 / MT 0800-100 / CT 0900-1100 / ET 1000-1200 / UK 1500-1700

I'm hosting an open house in my virtual Zendo to celebrate naively stumbling into my first retreat on October 25, 2002, and managing to meditate daily ever since.

There won't be any meditation guidance during this one. It's just a chance to practice together for a bit. You're invited to drop in for a few minutes, a couple of hours, or any duration in between (Zoom link, passcode: 102502).

The session will also (allegedly) be streaming on the Attentional Fitness Facebook page.

Saturday Morning Retreat

Mindful Walking Meditation
Saturday, October 24, 2020,
from 9:00 am — 12:00 pm
Burbank Park Shelter     

Mindfulness isn't only about sitting still with your eyes closed. Mindful walking is a form of meditation that provides a rich opportunity to inhabit the present more fully through your ordinary senses.

This three-hour workshop includes a myth-busting introduction to mindfulness and a chance to spend some time savoring the outdoors while safely practicing mindfulness and comparing notes with others.

Register online or call 614-583-5000. 

The forecast calls for a chilly morning. Plan to wear layers and bring your own coffee.

Attention grabbers

From Meditation without Gurus: A Guide to the Heart of the Practice by Clark Strand

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