The holidays tend to bring all sorts of emotions to the surface. Whether we consider family as the group of people we were born into, that we married into, that we were hired into, or one we created ourselves (friends), navigating the family and relationships, in general, takes some skill.

Some of us have small families with maybe just one person to relate, while some of us have large families with lots of personalities. We are close with some members, not so close with others.

Still, for all of us, we are at the center of our family. What everyone has in common is us. When conflict arises, it’s important to understand ourselves, manage our actions, rise above your own tendencies, and find equanimity with everything else that’s beyond our control. That’s not so easy, right?!

It allows us to have mindful responses, not emotional reactions, to any circumstance. It helps us to respond to everything and everyone in a neutral way and to stay open to all experiences. It’s an important skill to practice because in any given moment, “the mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy”, as my teacher Yogi Charu would say.

Equanimity in Relationships: How do you deal with people?

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” (Yoga Sutras 1.33)

It would be one dimensional to say that a person falls into one single category. I think the reality is that we all fluctuate among each of these states all the time — some of us just like to hang out in one state longer than another.

Patanjali reminds us that there is a Yogic way of approaching all people, no matter what behaviors and attitudes they may be exhibiting at the moment.

More loosely translated, your mind will be calmer if you show:

  • Friendliness towards the Happy
  • Compassion or Support for the Unhappy
  • Delight or Goodwill for the Virtuous
  • Disregard, Neutrality, Tolerance, or Acceptance for the Non-Virtuous (aka the Difficult ones)

In other words, to cultivate equanimity, we strive to respond with right action when encountering any “type” of attitude or behavior. The universe sends souls our way to help us overcome our issues (to test us) and at the same time sends us tools (meditation, yoga) to overcome them (through insight and self reflection).

Patanjali’s advice:

With a happy person, be friendly. Be able to share in another person’s happiness or good fortune, instead of being jealous or trying to destroy their joy through negative words or actions. Jealousy doesn’t hurt the happy person, rather it robs you of your own peace of mind.

With someone unhappy or upset, offer assistance. If she needs space, then leave her alone after letting her know you will be there for her when she is ready. Instead of taking pleasure in seeing someone else suffer, remember how it felt when it happened to you. By doing that, you will retain the peace of your own mind. “Through compassion you find that all human beings are just like you.”— The Dalai Lama

With a virtuous person, offer goodwill. Appreciate and be open to inspiration by knowing such greatness is possible.

With difficult people, develop neutrality. Not everyone will be aligned to our values, some people may oppose them. At some point in our lives perhaps we said or did something hurtful to someone else. The best way to keep the mind calm is to be indifferent to that person. Acting in a way that is neutral does not mean approving of bad behavior. It means tapping into your own inner strength, patience, and forgiveness.

“Those who have achieved mental discipline regard everything – stones and gold, friends and foes – equally. They are not motivated by personal ambition and keep to themselves in a peaceful frame of mind.” (Bhagavad Gita 6.8-10) This is not always easy, so meditation is one tool that can help us to cultivate equanimity.

If you need immediate calm, try a mantra or repetition of a word or phrase. You become what you believe, and what you tell yourself, so you will do. So the next time you find yourself being irritated, simply close your eyes, and repeat:

(Inhale) LET

(Exhale) GO

Repeat 10, 20, 100 times until you are at peace.

And if, after many hours of eating, drinking, and chatting with your family, you can’t remember the 4 actions, simply return to this thought:


Each person we encounter, including those in our families, is a teacher incognito, and every circumstance is an opportunity for growth.

Why not use that chance to ask – What can I do to make this holiday special for my family and for myself? The answer just might navigate you towards true north – a higher learning and a higher purpose.

This post is in collaboration with The Refined Collective Series. Be sure and check out all the ladies in this wonderful group—#therefinedcollective