Faith and equanimity in the face of change

Ten days ago I was happily unemployed. Being a Type A personality, I was not, however, idle. Since being laid off in April 2016, I wrote a book, Faith without Labels — A Guide to Eclectic Spirituality, and sent query letters to every New Age publisher listed in the Writer’s Market. I also created and built an online presence, including this blog, a Twitter account and an Eclectic Spirituality Facebook group, to promote the premise of my book. My days were filled with book-related tasks, exercise, hobbies, home life and pets, and I had never been more content.

Alas, being unemployed isn’t very profitable. So, when a friend asked me to fill a temporary position in her company, I said yes. On Monday I went from making my own hours and doing what I wanted when I wanted to being on a schedule and doing what someone else needed. Though the job is interesting and my manager and coworkers are lovely, the abrupt change felt like culture shock.

Also, due to a medical procedure and a change in my medication, my migraines were more intense and long lasting than usual this week. I muscled my way through each workday, learning a new job in a new industry, being as pleasant and professional as possible while masking the fact that I was dizzy, nauseous, in pain and utterly wiped out.

The workweek ended, as they always do. Last night I did a little research on the Internet and learned that one of my medications was probably responsible for the dizziness, nausea and exhaustion. I skipped the offending med this morning and, hours later, I feel better than I have in at least a week.

Which all leads me to believe that the old adage, “This, too, shall pass,” is true.

The question is, how do I, as a person of faith, believe that while in the midst of a tough time?

According to Dictionary.com, faith is:

noun

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing:

faith in another’s ability.

2. belief that is not based on proof:

He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion:

the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

While I have no proof that “This, too, shall pass,” experience tells me that this is so. A well known saying, the origins of which are open to debate, is that “The only constant is change.” In Buddhism, this fact is called the law of impermanence. People change: We are born, age and die. Our personalities, faces, bodies, opinions and outlooks change. Relationships change: People fall in and out of love, children grow up and leave their parent’s home to start families of their own… Our health changes: We get sick, we get better, age settles into our bones, our vision and hearing fail…

This “experiential faith” seems to be at odds with the second definition of faith above. But, in a sense, it’s not. The financial industry often includes the phrase, “past performance is no guarantee of future results” as a caveat in promotional pieces. Experiential faith is akin to that phrase. We can assume that a bad or uncomfortable situation will pass because they always have in the past. But we don’t know that they will. Change may be inevitable, but we fear that it may not happen during our lifetime, which essentially means that it may not change for us.

This brings me to what I consider to be faith’s sibling, equanimity, which can be defined as, “mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness; equilibrium.” In Buddhism, equanimity is one of the four “Brahma-vihara,” also known as the “Four Immeasurables” or “Four Perfect Virtues.” (The other three Brahma-vihara are lovingkindness, compassion and sympathetic joy.)  Equanimity is the ability to be mindful of whatever is happening, without being consumed by it. We observe, secure in the knowledge that our spiritual “bank” is full thanks to regular spiritual deposits (meditation, dharma talks, etc.) and that this funding will see us through this stressful period or event. 

Faith and equanimity as I’ve described them here have nothing to do with “faith” as it is commonly used in Western culture. It’s not about believing in a deity, miracles or life after death, though faith is certainly necessary for all of these beliefs. It’s about facing whatever life throws our way with grace and the knowledge that, no matter what happens, we will be OK.

10 thoughts on “Faith and equanimity in the face of change

  1. “Equanimity is the ability to be mindful of whatever is happening, without being consumed by it.” Oh man… That is SO something I need to work on. Especially right this very moment as I’m trying to adjust to having my grandkids in my life permanently. (They just moved here from Maryland, ages 7, 5, 3, and 18 months!) I’m not adjusting very well at all — yet…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judie Sigdel

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on equanimity, calensariel! I imagine that the constant presence of four young grandchildren would test anyone’s equanimity! I look forward to following your progress on this front in your blog. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not sure what all I can say on there. Some. But I’m pretty sure my daughter checks my blog now and then. I don’t want to make MY problem hers. So I’ll have to be tender about it when I do write of it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Judie Sigdel

    Thank you for asking, marypoppinseffect! I received a publishing contract, but it turns out that it was a vanity press, so I declined. I’m still waiting to hear from a number of publishers; I understand that it can take months. If all else fails, I will self publish.

    Like

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