Embodying the Mind of Love, Joy, Compassion, and Equanimity by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. © 2013October 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Adolescents, Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Self-Regulation, Stress Management, Trauma | Leave a comment
Mindfulness, Love, Joy, Compassion, and Equanimity
Mindfulness has been defined as, “…awareness…of present experience…with acceptance” (Germer, 2005, p. 7). Although mindfulness seems to refer only to the mind, it also involves the body as well as the heart. Your body is a vehicle for the experience of present-centered awareness, and without it, some of the most elevated heart-centered expressions of mindfulness practice—love, joy, compassion, and equanimity—cannot become manifest. Love in this context is about unity, the absence of separation, which provides a pathway to peace, harmony, and healthy living. A loving attitude is one that supports the wish for the happiness of others. There are many interpretations of joy. Joy can be a consequence of resonantly rejoicing in the happiness of others. I like to view joy as the result of connecting with the energy of life with full acceptance, without the distorting filter of thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. Compassion is about recognizing the suffering of self and others with an intention and effort to relieve it. Equanimity allows you to be stable and composed in the face of changing external conditions. Equanimity is most tested when people and situations are not operating in accordance with our wishes or liking. When the mind, heart, and body are relating to self and others with equanimity, there is no hostility or reactive stress, even when others intent on pushing our buttons provoke us!
Practice, Ideas, and Embodiment
Without practicing mindfulness, the ability to focus upon and cultivate qualities of love, joy, compassion, and equanimity are limited. Mindfulness allows you to know how aligned your thoughts, speech, and actions are with those qualities, as well as the values and intentions that you uphold.
Through the practices described below, I invite you to experiment with embodying love, joy, compassion, and equanimity. Embodiment is about bringing a mental concept into physical form. For example, the idea of love is different than the embodied expression of love. Although the idea of love (e.g., through the written word) can touch others in unseen ways, the embodied expression of love can literally touch others through a reassuring, gentle grasp of a hand or a soft tone of voice.
Practice I: Imagining Embodiment
First choose a mental quality of love, joy, compassion, or equanimity. You may also consider another quality such as kindness or optimism if that is more relevant for you. Then, write a brief description of how a person who strongly embodied one of those qualities would speak, act, think, feel, and relate to others. Create a mini-script that describes how such a person would appear in your everyday life. If it helps, you might imagine the person to be someone that you admire, like a spiritual or religious figure who clearly exudes love, joy, compassion, and/or equanimity.
Practice II: Embodiment in the Real World
After you have developed a sense of the “script” that such an individual might follow, allow yourself to step into the role of being like that individual, although this time, transitioning from imagining the embodiment to practicing the embodiment of love, joy, compassion, and/or equanimity in relation to self and the others in your everyday life. How do you speak? What thoughts do you cultivate? What feelings are embraced? How do you relate to yourself during stressful times? How do you relate to the people who challenge you? How do you relate to the people that you love and care for? How does your posture express the quality that you are cultivating? How does the eye contact you make with others embody this quality? How does your body feel when you are aligned with love, joy, compassion, and/or equanimity?
Questions for Exploration
What did you learn from this practice? How can this practice help to relieve the suffering and distress of self and others? In what other ways can this practice be applied to your work, family, close relationships, or relationship with self?
An Open Invitation
Intentional embodiment is like a vessel that holds the nourishing liquid of your choice. Your thoughts, speech, and actions can give form to your highest values, mental qualities, and aspirations. The invitation is to continue the practice of embodiment in your everyday life, the place where it can truly make a meaningful difference.
Germer, C.K. 2005. Mindfulness. In C.K. Germer, R.D. Siegel, & P.R. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 3-27). New York: Guilford Press.
(with contributing editors, Heather Butts, J.D., MPH, MA, Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT, and Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)
Photo by Emily Nichols Photography at http://emilynicholsphotography.com