"Help Yourself First." --S.N. Goenka
In one of his nightly lectures via videotape, S.N. Goenka advised against getting involved in any situation or taking any action until you are feeling equanimous.
If you know anything about Vipassana meditation, you know it is all about equanimity. Equanimity is the thing.
Equanimity is defined as, "mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation." I like to think of it as getting to neutral.
This advice reminded me of the part in the airline safety speech about putting on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others and made me realize how often I leap into situations when my equanimity is something less than perfect.
This is especially true when my kids are fighting. Nothing gets under my skin like the two of them going at it. Invariably I jump in, blood pressure rising, voice raised, and more often than not, make things worse.
There are certainly times when we need to let our instincts take over and just act, but I don't think this is required as often as we do it.
More often than not, a step backward, a few deep breaths, a few moments in neutral can help us navigate the tricky situations in our lives with much more presence, more consciousness and more equanimity. And that helps everyone.
[ Join me in 30 Days of Forgiveness starting January 2nd, 2014! "To err is human; to forgive, divine." (Alexander Pope)]