GROWING…Reflections for deep change J.M.Sampath, PhD and Kalpana Sampath, PhD


Equanimity – the inner balance

"The best kind of help to others, whenever possible, is indirect, and consists in such modifications of the conditions of life, of the general level of subsistence, as enables them independently to help themselves."

—John Dewey

This philosophy is a social work philosophy—‘to help people to help themselves’. When a social entrepreneur enters into the arena of taking responsibility and accountability of things beyond self, there are several challenging contexts that they will have to face. Whenever a change is instituted there are several obstacles that a social entrepreneur encounters. Similarly, when certain outcomes are achieved there would be several laurels that the social entrepreneur receives. Each of them could leave the person disappointed, distressed, or highly elated and proud. Reacting and getting attached to any of these would be a sure way of getting away from the primary objective. What the social entrepreneur requires is a core of steel, not allowing the inner resolution to be shaken. To be that the social entrepreneur requires developing a state of equanimity. 

Once upon a time there lived a king who was very powerful. His court was always full of wise men from many lands. One day he called the wise men to his court and said, “I wish to test your wisdom. Bring for me, before sunset, a gift that will make me joyous when I am unhappy and sober when I am indulgent.”

In the evening he called for the wise men to see what they had brought for him. The wise men paid their respects to the king and placed before him a ring on which was inscribed, “This too shall pass.”

(Sampath. J.M. story 89 Discovery – 3rd edition, Insight Publishers, Bangalore, India, 1998)

The meaning of ‘Equanimity’ in the dictionary is ‘level headedness’; ‘calm’; ‘evenness of mind’; ‘composure’. It means the ability to be passionately engaged with the process of helping, but not getting attached to the outcomes. The antonym of equanimity is agitation, alarm, anxiety, discomposure, excitableness, upset, worry. These are some of the emotions that can cause distractions in the mind of the entrepreneur.

At the deepest level the attachment to the outcomes comes from a belief that there are two groups—the enabler and the enabled; and the enabler is at a higher level than the enabled. When the social entrepreneur begins to think that they make the difference and whatever happens to the project is because of them and their efforts, the outcomes begin to affect the inner resolve. While the one who helps is important; one cannot become a social entrepreneur until the community does not seek and accept help. Both are a part of the larger subsystem and each is helping to fulfill the needs of the other. This is also many times the consciousness way of responding to the larger requirements. When this deeper dimension is understood the social entrepreneur emerges from the space of humility and gratitude. Equanimity and conviction will not thrive in spaces of superiority and supremacy. Only ego thrives there.

The development of a state of equanimity helps the entrepreneur in several ways:

  • There may be a difference between what the entrepreneur may want to give to the needy community and what they actually require. The inner balance or equanimity will help the social entrepreneur to understand this difference, accept the reality, and respond to what is required rather than what one wants.
  • Equanimity brings a deep sense of humility. This will make the entrepreneur more responsive to the context with openness, learner perspective and lend oneself to what needs to be done in the context.
  • Equanimity builds a stronger resolve to stay focused on the objectives to be achieved. This makes the person responsive than reactive to context. It gives strength to conviction and a capacity to accept things that happen. Acceptance clears the mind and flowers the creativity to manage the situation.
  • There is many a time a difference between ‘what one sees’ and ‘what is’ in every situation. Being in the state of equanimity makes the person non judgmental of people and situations. It takes the typical rights and wrongs that one gets into and allows multiple perspectives to emerge.
  • Equanimity lends to the entrepreneur a higher level of emotional consciousness and an ability to identify, recognize and relate to the emotional state of being, and choose the response voluntarily. This brings in appropriateness in behaviour of the social entrepreneur.
  • It builds the capacity in the social entrepreneur to LET GO when the time comes to enable the community to sustain on its own than create a dependency.

Points for Reflection:

  • What does balance and equanimity mean to me?
  • What is the root cause of my joys and sorrows? What are the kinds of things that give me an emotional high?  
  • How aware am I when my emotional balance tips off in a context? How soon am I able to catch myself getting engaged with my feelings?  
  • What are the processes that I follow to maintain a sense of balance within me while working on my project?

This is the twelfth article in the series’ growing…reflections for deep change’.