Under stress, we can at least gather our feathers
This image of a flamingo illustrates the kind of composure referred to as “equanimity”—steadiness of mind under stress. Calm. His feathers aren’t ruffled. His posture reminds me of the social science phenomenon of “cocooning,” a term coined in the 90’s by trend forecaster Faith Popcorn to describe how individuals were socializing less and retreating into their homes more. Whereas the trend began in part because of the desire for more people to work at home (even air conditioning was a contributing factor), more recent insecurities such as Covid, increased incivility, gun violence and terrorism have contributed dramatically to this drawing in. Add to this the advances in communications technology that have made it much easier to keep the rest of the world at arm’s length.
Whether or not we view cocooning as a positive or negative—perhaps both and at different times in our lives—the image of the flamingo gathering his wings with a watchful eye suggests to me an appropriate response to the winds that carry breakdown, disappointment, pain, loss and grief. Psychologists warn that resistance to these experiences makes them worse. Placing blame and railing against them stirs up negative energy and spreads the misery. Gathering our feathers amounts to standing calm and watchful, allowing the storm to bring what it will—and pass. That’s not to say we should be passive. The time for action is when, through observation and with increased information relating to opposing perspectives, the fuller truth is understood. Equanimity is the opposite of rushing to judgment or acting on information that only supports one perspective.
I’ve always lived with cats. One of the things I’ve observed that’s so marvelous about them, and animals in general—aside from their innate appeal and unique personalities—is that they respond to everything with equanimity. One day we picked up our cat, Indy, and he quickly retracted his paws. Normally they were pink. Now they were dark brown and rough. Yet he walked normally and didn’t vocalize. The vet diagnosed that his paws had been burned, probably from jumping up on the stove when one of the burners was still hot. Animals feel pain like we do, yet they respond to it with equanimity, allowing healing to take place and in the meantime making themselves as comfortable as possible.
Perhaps it’s easier for animals to maintain their composure because their operating systems are driven by instinct rather than self-awareness and they can’t speak. But I think we can at least learn from them that acceptance with composure is a more balanced response to upset. When at times that’s not possible, especially in communication situations, instead of spreading of negative energy, we can keep it to ourselves
In my novel, Jaguar Sun: The Journey of an Ancient Maya Storyteller—the third and last in the trilogy, a young lord, wise beyond his years, gathers his feathers by doing exactly what this flamingo is doing— standing and watching, carefully observing and assessing the situation before taking action. It’s also what Indy did in the heat of extreme pain. The word “grace” comes to mind.
With so many viewpoints about any topic, if one person is aggressive about his viewpoint, it is likely to bring imbalance into the situation. What is required is a certain calm, a lack of ego, a lack of delusion that one sees all around every situation, and give some space for others to contribute other viewpoints which would allow the emergence of a balanced view, so that there might be balanced action. There has to be balance for there to be health at any level.
Spiritual visionary, former president of Renaissance Business Associates, Inc.
Photography Monographs (Click on the pages to turn them)