A few years ago, I took up rappelling, the art of descending sheer cliffs by rope and harness, so that we could explore the red-rock canyons of Southern Utah. After I had begun to learn the basics, Steve, our guide, said to me, “You’re one of those people who wants to speed up when your adrenaline starts to flow.”
In my work as a professional counselor (my side job) I sometimes help people suffering with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This diagnosis indicates excessive anxiety or worry more days than not for at least six months, which the person finds it difficult to control, accompanied by symptoms like restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. In short, if equanimity is menuchat hanefesh, rest or calmness of soul, GAD is the opposite, restlessness of soul.
When I was a young rabbi, my time was consumed by people who were constantly in a state of anger, frustration, and offense. I was not usually the cause of it, but they contacted me to express their emotions over whatever it was that upset them.
Equanimity—what’s so great about it? Aren’t we supposed to be passionate, fired-up, and zealous for what’s right? Isn’t the problem among Yeshua-followers, at least in the western world, that we’re too complacent? And if that’s so, what’s the difference between equanimity and complacency?
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Messiah Yeshua. (Phillipians 4:6, 7)
Control can be a very powerful human motivation. On the one hand, maintaining control of a given situation can be healthy and vitally important.
With the pressures of the modern world, Equanimity, or even-temperedness is a rare commodity among people. In Jewish life, it is a virtue, because it is an issue of character.
At the tail end of parashat Balak we read of one of the most violent incidents of the Jewish people’s journey in the desert. In spite of all that had transpired up until that point, the people were still drawn to idolatry of a most heinous kind: the idolatry that objectifies the other (divine and human).
Just this morning as I was finishing a Yoga session I casually overheard an interesting and perhaps telling conversation. As I was coming out of the locker room I passed a common area where one of the instructors was “holding court” with a few students.