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I live in a city where people screaming and freaking out are regular public occurrences. But I think of the last time I was stuck on the subway on a hot afternoon in July. We were coming up to the Museum of Natural History when the train shrieked to a halt. The car, filled with tourists and day campers, went dark and the air-conditioning shut down. I could see people start to fidget and wipe their brows in a nervous, exasperated way. I braced for another collective meltdown, but all of a sudden one of the counselors started to sing "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" The kids joined in. The tenseness drained from people's faces, and what only moments ago had felt like banging on the gates of hell had now turned into a sweet recital of children's voices. Just like that, as Baraz had said, we weren't the butt of a joke played by the gods of municipal transit. We were in on it.

Phillip Moffitt writes a provocative column for Yoga Journal and is the coauthor of The Power to Heal. He is also the founder and president of the Life Balance Institute in Tiburon, California, where he counsels people who have reached a high level of success yet are still searching for a deeper meaning in life. When I track him down, he elaborates on Baraz's point. "Equilibrium is being in disequilibrium but trusting yourself to come back to balance," he says. "If someone says something to you that makes you angry and insecure, you're in disequilibrium. Your cheeks flush, your stomach clenches. As soon as you let those feelings take over and you react from the hurt or anger those words have caused you, things can rapidly escalate." Anyone who's ever fought with a sibling knows how an instant response (or instant overresponse) can happen. "If you're comfortable thinking, 'I'm really upset,' then you're okay," says Moffitt. The trick is to try to react in ways that dampen—rather than exacerbate—the extreme movements of the seesaw. Or, as Moffitt says, "Equilibrium is thinking, 'I'm in this state now; I must act as best I can.'"

*****

Just a few days ago, I was back in the kitchen. This time it was pesto. I pressed the button on the Cuisinart to blend the ingredients, but nothing happened. It was dead. There I was with a bowl full of basil, pignoli nuts, and garlic, and three people expecting dinner in about 30 minutes. At another time I might have lost my you-know-what. But I didn't. I told myself it was okay to feel a small clutch of panic in my throat, and then I started to sing along with the CD that was playing. I watched the moment pass and could feel my equilibrium glow inside me as bright and shiny as a Rootie Kazootie button. Pizza would have to do.

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