Poise is the ultimate cool

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DR NANDINI SHEKHAR reviews the 2011 book, Poise: A Warrior’s Guide by Gary Stokes, and is inspired to follow his guidance in her day-to-day life.

The other day I was reading about poise – that state of consciousness where everything is in perfect balance. The word poise is synonymous with balance, equilibrium, control, grace and presence.

As a coach and mindfulness practitioner, I became immensely interested in poise, as to me it represented the epitome of perfection – what I have always been seeking – the perfect balance of the material and spiritual lives. That sacred space where everything is as it should be.

Poise is an issue in every arena where relationships impact the quality of collaboration, partnership and creativity. When we lose our poise in predictable patterns, we are stuck, unable to tap tour limitless powers. Then anger, irritation, impatience, selfpity, and victimhood pose considerable problems for colleagues, partners, spouses, or supervisors, but even more so for us.

According to Gary Stokes, the author of Poise: A Warrior’s Guide, modern organizations require men and women who have enough self-awareness to sustain balance, composure and equanimity in the face of extraordinary challenges. Stokes says that, when poised, we are fully present in our environment, glad to be alive. Balanced and composed, we are able to draw all that is pleasurable from any situation. Poised, we are able to be connected, grateful, creative and lighthearted, no matter what is happening. In other words, poise is the ultimate cool, attractive and sane.

Stokes also examines the great costs to us when we lose our poise: we make mistakes, our judgment is distorted and we make bad decisions. Our enjoyment of life is diminished and our potential evaporates temporarily or even permanently as we lose access to our love. Failing to sustain poise, we remain trapped in a limited life, circling in an eddy, going nowhere, stuck in a universal pattern of negative thinking and behavior. The most impactful statement for me is that the universal cause of lost poise is self-pity.

Self-pity is often our response when something happens that we don’t like. We become a victim in order to explain why we feel bad. We blame someone else: “Someone is doing this to me!” We tell sympathetic people our victim story, and they oblige by saying, “Oh, you poor thing,” or something similar.

Then we obsess and hope that divine justice or our own acts of revenge will bring our adversaries down. As long as we feel sorry for ourselves, we will lose our poise. Our potential will be blocked, and our lives will remain trapped in an eddy as we go round and round, feeling as if we’re on the move, but actually going nowhere.

Living a life of poise implies that we are able to deal with everything that comes to us. We use every challenge thrown at us and everything is a source of learning.

Stokes uses a Poise Checklist to get back to poise when we are upset in any way. Here’s his list:

Am I in the present right now?

Am I connected to others with love, and am I connected with my values, my mission, and myself?

Am I grateful right now?

Do I have access to my creativity, improvising, refusing to be trapped?

Is my heart light, unburdened by my own heaviness and selfabsorption?

We may still lose our poise once in a while, but we know what to do – get back into the present, reconnect, give thanks, improvise, and laugh at ourselves.

No matter what is happening, poise is the ultimate cool.


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  1. Catherine Johnson : January 8, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    Poise and surrender seem to walk hand in hand. A most beautiful and encouraging article which only experience can manifest. Thanks for sharing.

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