Sangfroid and Phlegm

For my friends Laura, Cyndee, Barbara, Liz, Ann, Gretchen and all the parents I’ll meet at Freshman Orientation:

As my youngest is about to go 10 hours away to college, I have had to work almost minute-to-minute on a stiff upper lip.  My ancestors were fiery Scots, so the saying “Stay Calm and Carry On” doesn’t resonate.  The only thing that keeps me from collapsing on the floor in a puddle is remembering my sweet grandmother dabbing her eyes two weeks before we returned to Bangladesh every home leave.  Those tears were heavy on all of us.  I’m sure Nana felt cleansed, but my poor Mom was dripping in her mother’s emotion.  It wasn’t fair and I’m trying hard not to do it to my beautiful and talented daughter as she starts another exciting part of her own journey.

So yesterday in Todd’s class, when the intention of equanimity came to me, I folded it at heart center.  I worked on keeping a drishti, equalizing my breath, staying in touch with my edge, dropping to my knees when I needed  to return to balance.  I left practice feeling joyful.

Equanimity is balance of mind; composure that is maintained under stress.  Other synonyms are sangfroid, implying an icy control of the emotions, and phlegm, implying a composure that hides apathy.  It is a careful balance, isn’t it?  To maintain composure but not to lose the compassion that makes us human.  The definition of equanimity carries with it a sense of a habit of mind, not a personality tic or flaw.

Yoga practice reminds us physically of balance, brushing away the thoughts that clutter a mind and make balance impossible.  Skin and bones are tools to reflection and perception, habits of mind and a habit of compassion for all, including ourselves. (This must be why this image came to me as I was recycling canvases.  The blobs of dried paint reminded me of flaws on skin and then the skin called for a…window? My concious mind didn’t know what my emotional body wanted me to understand.)

This week, as we enter another transition in our lives, one that seems less joyful than welcoming these beautiful children into our lives 18 years ago,Thich Nhat Hanh’s words will help us retain equanimity:

Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby.  To suffer is not enough.  We must also be in touch with the wonders of life.  They are within us and all around us, everywhere, anytime.

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