Composure in Crisis

by | May 7, 2023

This phrase can be read two ways: composure is in danger of being lost throughout society, and composure is the quality most needed in a crisis. This jewel of equanimity is a precious state of mind with many benefits. On the bigger scale, composure helps us maintain focus in a time of danger or emergency. On the level of everyday life it allows us to evaluate and react to challenges that might otherwise throw us off balance. Composure allows the body to maintain homeostasis, that steady state of physiological functioning where all internal systems are humming along with efficiency and healthy effects.

Our mainstream media world is obsessed with those cases where composure has been lost; it broadcasts the disastrous results repeatedly until we either turn away or accept it as the norm. The crisis of composure leads to fear, hatred, violence and anger in its many forms. We all need to stop, take a deep breath, and let our mind relax into equanimity. This is the natural state of composure. Meditation helps, qigong helps, many forms of mind/body awareness help to let us see that we are all in the same boat floating on the sea of life and each is related to the other.

Every experience we have with another person – whether it’s an interpersonal exchange or solely within our mind – is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. This is how we usually perceive the world: good, bad or neither. The state of equanimity can embrace each of these three perceptions with total acceptance but without emotional clinging and anxiously wishing for it to be different than what it is.

Picture This.
Equanimity is seeing the big picture. Like taking a long steady hike up a mountain, after a short rest you go on and soon reach the top where you see the whole vista from a distance. You’ve come through sun and shade, valleys and ridges to reach this panoramic view. With a soft gaze you take in all the pleasant, Thich Nhat Nanh equanimityunpleasant and neutral aspects of your life. Thich Nhat Hanh, the venerable zen master, said a defining trait of equanimity/composure is inclusiveness. You can see all sides in their totality but without taking a side. You stand firm in tranquility.The strength of Equanimity/Composure comes from wisely knowing that the interplay of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral never stops.

Don’t confuse Composure with Indifference.
Being aloof and disengaged from the joys and sorrows of life is a lonely state of mind. Lack of concern and disinterest are imposters of equanimity.

Composure/Equanimity is kind, compassionate and joyful but tempered
with the wisdom of nonattachment.

True equanimity is a spacious stillness of mind that allows us to be with things as they simply are. We can be fully connected to others, but without our habitual reactions of careening toward what is pleasant and pulling away from what is unpleasant. The combination of compassion and composure is what allows us to care profoundly, and yet accept the limits of what we can do. This balance prevents us from becoming overwhelmed or unable to cope because of that caring.

We know better than to try to prevent the seasons from changing or to stop the sun from rising. We know that following autumn, winter comes. We may not prefer it, but we accept it because we understand its rightful place in a larger cycle; a bigger picture. Can we apply the same wise balance to the cycles of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral experiences in our lives?

How to Cultivate Composure Everyday.
Notice how many pleasant and unpleasant experiences you have each day. You are constantly hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, or thinking about the world around you. Tune into those sensations (yes, thoughts are a form of sensory perception). Take a few moments, several times a day, to become aware of how you categorize those sensations. See how there is a constant movement between those that are pleasant and those that are unpleasant. Does that create a definite feeling in your body?

Now, take notice of those sensations to which you have a neutral impression, which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Is there a subtle but detectable calmness in your neutral mind state?

Equanimity comes from blending compassion and wisdom. We can take action to relieve compassion wisdom equanimitythe suffering of a friend, correct injustices in society, and care for mother earth without being overwhelmed by the situation. Compassion is the action, wisdom is the view, and composure is the result – a tranquil journey through the storms and calm waters on the vast ocean of your mind. Composure is the mind state of spiritual awakening.