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Equanimity

The English word, "equanimity" refers to a state of being calm and balanced, in the midst of difficulty or challenge-- kind of the ultimate level-headedness.

First used in England in 1607 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), the concept we now denominate as equanimity was first identified almost twenty centuries earlier as one of the four pillars of the philosophy of Buddhism. In Pali (which was the language of the time) the word then used was upekkha, and it was one of the four brahma-viharas, or "sublime attitudes" taught by the Buddha.

As interpreted by the wonderful teacher, Sharon Salzburg, upekkha (equanimity) is about perspective, and it's a quality that infuses the other three virtues, with wisdom. Wisdom? Perspective? I don't care what century, or what philosophy one may be talking about, but those are qualities that resonate.

And, of course, there's also humility. As Ms. Salzburg writes: "We remember how much we don't know, because of the force of equanimity". Humility (remembering how much we don't know) is not something that is broadly celebrated in society today-- particularly in that segment dominated by the legal profession-- and that's a shame.

Sure, there are moments when ego asserts itself, but self-pride is largely gratuitous and short-lived. Humility is where it's at, and if humility is a component of equanimity, then sign me up for a serious dose. Sign everyone up-- especially lawyers.

Equanimity is a concept that's been around for centuries and has correspondingly myriad nuances. For me, equanimity is a combination of many different qualities that reflect the best that we humans have to offer. No one quality captures all facets of equanimity, and that's okay-- like Justice Potter Stewart is quoted as having said in his search for a definition of obscenity: "I know it when I see it".

Equanimity is a quality that is so varied and rich, it defies easy definition-- but that doesn't mean it not real. Or relevant. It's both, and it's incredibly important.

Here's to equanimity-- however one may describe or define it. Thank goodness it exists in the world!





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