The Equanimity Game: A Simple Practice to Develop Resilience

There’s a story about a martial arts master called “Osensei.”

Osensei is the founder of Aikido. And he’s regarded as one of the greatest martial artists who ever lived! His students revered him for his masterful skill and composure.

One day in training, a student exclaimed: “Master! Your techniques are perfect. You’re never off-center! How do you maintain this state so flawlessly?”

Osensei smiled and replied “To the contrary, I lose my center all the time. I just find it again so quickly that you can’t see it!

When (Not If) You Get Knocked Down

Whenever I get knocked down in life, I think of this story.

It reminds me that life has waves, and there’s no such thing as perfection. And it reminds me that getting knocked down isn’t something to be upset about. It’s simply part of the human experience!

After all, if the great martial arts masters lose their center, it makes sense that you and I will as well. 🙂

So instead of trying to avoid the pain of getting knocked down, Osensei shows us a more effective path. Focus on finding your center as quickly as possible.

“Fall seven, rise eight.”
~ Japanese proverb

The Equanimity Game: Resilience as a Practice

Applying this wisdom in your life comes down to a single question.

“When I get knocked down…How quickly can I regain my center?”

In practice, it looks something like this:

  1. Can you notice when you’re off your axis?
  2. Can you pause to take a few deep breaths?
  3. Can you let the judgments pass by?
  4. Can you accept that you are “off” in this moment? (Only through acceptance of what is here now can you proceed forward on stable footing.)
  5. Consider: What might I do to regain my center as quickly as possible? What are the actions that leave me feeling energized, clear, confident, and creative?
  6. Take action to shift your state.

Regaining Equanimity at all Levels

The awesome thing about The Equanimity Game is that it applies to “off-center” moments at all levels of life.

No matter where it comes from, or how off-axis I am, the same approach applies.

It applies in little daily moments:

  • Distractions while working
  • Not meeting expectations for how long something will take
  • Feeling frustration about a certain event/result
  • etc.

Instead of beating myself up about these events, I focus on doing whatever I can to proceed forward in the best way.

And it also applies to more significant events. In 2018, I experienced the loss of a grandmother and the end of a relationship in close proximity. These events hit me with greater force than a daily distraction. But my approach to move through them was the same.

  1. Embrace where I’m at.
  2. Feel what’s there without judgment, and without hiding from the pain.
  3. Direct my attention towards regaining my center as quickly as possible.
  4. Take action, one step at a time, with as much love as I can muster. 🙂

Your Challenge

My challenge to you this week/month/year/lifetime is this: When you get knocked down, how quickly can you regain your center?

Let’s focus on being just a little bit better at that this week.

With love,

PS: A Few Ways to Shift Your State

Here are a few of my favorite ways to shift my state that help me regain my center.

  • Abrupt temperature changes: Cold showers are my favorite quick-hit tool for an abrupt (and positive!) mental-shift.
  • Meditation: Even as short as a minute can create a shift for me. The longer the meditation, the bigger shift I experience.
  • Exercise: A hard workout changes everything. Even a few minutes of movement (jumping jacks, squats, pushups, burpees, animal crawls…) makes a difference. Even better is playful moving like cartwheels or throwing a ball around!
  • Power naps: 15-20 minutes of shut-eye (with an eye mask!) is a powerful refresh for the body and mind.
  • A walk outside: Time on foot and time (and in nature) are natural centering mechanisms.

PPS: The story of Osensei originally came to me through Brian Johnson over at (The best source of optimal living wisdom online!) But he first heard the story from Michael Gelb.

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