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Tolerance & Equanimity For Seniors

Elizabeth Reninger Written by Elizabeth Reninger
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Taoism | Meditation | Compassion

One great way to increase our tolerance of others is to cultivate equanimity -- an attitude of appreciation and non-judgmental welcoming of whatever happens to be arising in our experience, from moment to moment. This can be a valuable skill for seniors and care givers.  When the energy of equanimity is strong within us, we’re much less likely to get caught up in emotional reactivity, in “charged” dynamics of grasping or rejecting. We’re less susceptible to the habit of automatically judging people or situations as “good” or “bad,” as “right” or “wrong.” Instead, we remain spacious and open to fully experiencing, with a sense of appreciation and gratitude, perhaps even wonder and awe, the various experiences that life presents us with. At the very least, we remain tolerant -- even when we don’t fully understand or agree with what’s happening. We keep lines of communication open, staying connected to the truth of our shared humanity, to the fact that we really are “all in this together”!

Tolerance & Equanimity For Seniors

How do we go about developing this quality of equanimity? One powerful way of cultivating the skill of equanimity is through Mindfulness Meditation practice (which is also great for developing concentration and clarity). Mindfulness Meditation practice can be found, in some form, within most of the major religious traditions, e.g. in Buddhism, Taoism, and Advaita Vedanta; as well as in the contemplative wings of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Though integral to these various spiritual traditions, the practice of Mindfulness doesn’t depend upon any of them, and can just as easily be practiced within an entirely secular context.

When we practice Mindfulness Meditation, we cultivate an aspect of our consciousness frequently referred to as the “witness.” Our “witness” is that part of us that can simply observe things, in a very matter-of-fact way, without pushing them away (suppressing them) or getting sucked into their dynamics (identifying with them). When we practice Mindfulness Meditation, we sit down -- either on the floor on a cushion, or in a chair -- and simply become aware of internal or external sensations, thoughts and perceptions. As these sensations, thoughts or perceptions arise, we simply acknowledge or “note” them, i.e. focus our attention upon them, and then “label” them, to ourselves.

So for instance, if I notice the feeling of anger arising within me, I would first, in a simple, matter-of-fact way, acknowledge its presence, like acknowledging the presence of a friend. Next, I would “label” the anger-sensation by saying -- either out loud or to myself -- “feeling.”

There are many forms of Mindfulness Meditation, and many variations of noting/labeling that can be used. The central idea in all of them is to practice an attitude of welcoming and appreciation of whatever sensations, thoughts and perceptions might be arising, within the world and within our selves, at any given moment. As we become more and more proficient in this practice, our equanimity grows; and as our equanimity grows, so does our ability to be tolerant -- to welcome instead of reject people or situations which are unfamiliar to us. And this is a really good thing!!

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