Does equanimity equal tranquility?

“As long as one lives a life of calmness and tranquility in the service of God, it is clear that he is remote from true service.” [Rabbi Israel Salanter]

This is a busy week for many of us – you may be getting ready to host a Thanksgiving feast, or perhaps preparing to travel in order to be with family and friends, or just as the winter is approaching with school and life underway there are a myriad of tasks we put on ourselves to accomplish.  The busy-ness that so easily overtakes me has me yearning for some calm and tranquility.  This text challenges the notion of equanimity as an end in and of itself. Rabbi Salanter reminds me that finding equanimity in a given situation is to enable me to be more present in a given moment, giving my attention to the situation itself rather than my own internal experiences that may be distractions from the truth of the present.

I can only hope that God fully expects my distractibility.  It is neither tranquility nor asceticism that God desires of me, for that would mean that I am living a life of isolation and disconnectedness.  Being created in God’s image, b’tzelem Elohim, means that I live in the world of relationships. And that comes with being buffeted by everyone else’s experiences, needs and desires.  Like bumper cars, we are all bumping into each other, connected to one another – but we don’t stay still; we keep moving forward.

Take a moment this Shabbat to find your internal measure of equanimity – menuchat hanefesh, literally the resting of the soul – in a way that can prepare your heart for the certain rolling and upsurges that come from sharing time and relationship with family and friends.  And, don’t cling too dearly to any sense of tranquility; recognize that our buoyancy  comes from riding the waves.


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