What is the secret to longitivtiy as a professional support person?
Is it business savvy, resiliency, or luck? Perhaps it is a bit of each, and then some.
Lately our Director at Doula Canada has been meditating on what it means to be a doula with tenure; what it takes to not only make birth work a life-long career, but what is also means to be championed through the eyes of ones clients.
Today I would like to explore the importance of equanimity and strengthening ourselves through the experience of learning to sit amidst discomfort.
As birth workers we are called by our clients to support them through their own needs, and sometimes that can create discomfort in our own bias, philosophies, and called upon memories.
We bear witness to some of the most miraculous experiences of life, but many a doula can speak to unexpected situations that have triggered their fears and lessened their professional resolve. Sometimes the miraculous can turn into worrisome, and our exposure to emotions, pain, and anxiety can rock our psychological stability.
Equanimity, the ability to remain psychologically composed through all types of experience, has become synonymous with the word “doula” in my career of supporting families.
Actual synonyms for the word “equanimity” are peace, calm, composure and poise, and at DTC our team often speaks to the importance of these practices not only in the support of our clients, but for our lives in general. For we have long learned as doulas that in the face of adversity, equanimity can lead to leadership, positive outcome, and balance.
Mature equanimity brings a radiance and a confidence. It allows our clients to see the warmth of our being, even in the most unexpected of experiences. It is the ability to see without being caught up in what we see, and to observe from a place of holistic support unmarred by our own prejudice or bias.
Learning to embrace equanimity and to sit within discomfort also allows us to see the entire picture. It ensures that as doulas we can use our understanding and emulate patience in an environment full of high running emotions. It removes our impulse to be reactionary and always have “the answer,” when sometimes it is the pause between the words that holds the power of what we can suggest.
Equanimity can often be promised through the wisdom of time, and the power of experiencing uncomfortable situations. However, as a new doula it is important to remember that equanimity is not harnessed solely by years of experience. It can also be called upon through the understanding that people are responsible for making their own decisions and that as a birth worker we are not solely responsible for their well-being.
Take a moment to think about how you practice equanimity in your daily life.
There’s a beautiful poem about deepening our resilience to discomfort and challenge, it reads:
“Where would I find enough leather to cover the entire surface of the earth?
But with leather soles beneath my feet, it’s as if the whole world has been covered.
Likewise, it’s not possible for me to restrain the external course of things,
but should I restrain this mind of mine, what would be the need to restrain all else?”
We don’t have control over all else but do have control over our self.
We don’t need to cover the world with leather, instead, we toughen the leather on our own feet so that we are more resistant to it.
-Shantideva, 8th Century Indian Buddhist Monk
The message of this poem is that we often don’t have control over what happens in life, but we do have control over our response. We can become more resistant to discomfort but embracing peace, calm, and composure. And we can become a championed doula in the eyes of others by remaining equanimous. We can learn to sit in discomfort and observe the space between uncertainty and knowing. We can do(ula) our best in those moments.
How do you practice equanimity in your daily life?
What moments of discomfort stand out to you as times when you practice composure and calm?