Everyone has a certain level of resilience. From time to time, we all experience stress, emotional upsets, and challenges in our lives. Resilience is the ability to withstand these situations, quickly recover from them, and be able to return to balance and harmony. Often our resilience depends on the resources we have to call upon, which could include friends and family, finances, knowledge, and past experiences. But resilience shouldn’t be just about surviving, true resilience opens the door for us to thrive and live life fully. What’s broken can be mended, what’s hurt can be healed and no matter how dark it gets, the sun is going to rise again.
One of the best examples of resilience is in the nature that we see around us every day. A wildfire burns everything to the ground but by the next year, shoots are sprouting up all over the place. We spend the day weeding our garden and we’ve hardly turned around before they’re all back again. A wildlife species almost become extinct but then starts to thrive as its numbers grow again. It seems that no matter how much we humans abuse Mother Nature, she’s always ready to come back.
As part of nature, we have that same resilient instinct within us. However, while nature tirelessly gets on with the job, we too often sit around complaining and feeling sorry for our misfortunes. Resilience means looking for opportunities instead of focusing on problems. As Stuart Wilde said, “The fear of not having something disguises the reality that we have everything”.
We can strengthen our resilience by:
- Having strong, healthy relationships with friends and family who will be there during difficult times.
- Learning from past experiences.
- Listening to our body’s signals and asking our heart for guidance.
- Remaining hopeful.
- Being flexible and knowing when to change direction or stop.
- Having a strong sense of your own capabilities and potential.
When it comes to our physical health, prevention is obviously preferable to having to treat and cure. Apart from accidents and infections, most health issues don’t happen overnight. They are often the result of years of bad habits and neglect. We all know that smoking is bad for us and yet millions still do it. We have vaccines that prevent viral infections and yet millions resist using them. Physical resilience means taking care of yourself now.
Our physical health is affected by many different things including, the climate, toxins in everyday products, polluted air, infections, accidents, and natural aging. We may feel that some of these things are out of our control but, to some degree, we are all responsible for everything that happens. Begin by making conscious choices for yourself and the environment around you. Create an action plan, make a commitment to eat healthy food, get sufficient good quality sleep, exercise regularly, or recycle and avoid putting unnecessary toxins into the environment. We’ve all heard stories of great feats of endurance, people being rescued alive, after days under a collapsed building, or being lost in the wilderness. Every day, our bodies are subjected to some greater or lesser challenge. Our power of resilience determines whether they cause long-term, short-term or unnoticeable discomfort. Resilient health doesn’t mean the situation never existed. It means it no longer controls our life.
The mind is the home of our thoughts, emotions, desires, and expectations. Unlike the body, whose challenges are often clearly visible, the mind has a tendency to hide away its problems. Face your fears, don’t live in denial. Mental resilience is the ability to use processes and behaviors to protect ourselves from the stresses of life and maintain a state of balance and equilibrium. As the Dalai Lama says, “It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for yourself and others”.
Your thoughts create your reality. What you put your attention on grows so, if your mind is filled with frustrations, doubts, fears, and anxieties, that’s the world you will create for yourself. Worrying is the most self-destructive thing your mind does. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. To be mentally resilient may involve a shift in how we habitually look at the world and the events of our life. Keep your life simple and humble so you can minimize creating challenges and discomforts. Avoid engaging in dysfunctional behavior or harming others, instead create supportive relationships.
Identify the things or people that help to keep you grounded, centered, and optimistic. Whether it’s walking in nature, eating certain foods, visiting a special place, or simply observing your breath, it’s important to have something to fall back on in those times of overwhelm. Resilience doesn’t have to mean resistance or reaction, often it starts with acceptance. Remember, resilience is about you taking care of yourself, so understanding, compassion, and forgiveness often play important roles. Finally, the goal has to be gratitude. When you can be truly grateful for everything in your life, you will have mastered mental resilience.
Restoring and Adapting
Being resilient doesn’t mean we should be overconfident, we need a clear understanding of our own potential and abilities. Also, too much resilience can make us overly tolerant of unpleasant situations or cause us to spend too much time on impossible goals. However, resilience gives us the ability to restore what has been broken, whether physically or emotionally, with the understanding that nothing can or should be exactly the same again. Time moves forward and resilience opens our eyes to new possibilities. The Vedas remind us, “Infinite flexibility is the key to immortality”. Resilience requires flexibility, balance, and knowing when to adapt rather than pushing forward. If we look at the history of evolution, it’s a constant process of adapting to changing circumstances. Deepak Chopra tells us, “You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible and be willing to redefine yourself every day”. We need to avoid being rigidly fixed on how we think something should be. Sometimes we need to sit back and patiently allow things to unfold. Everything has its season.
Spiritual resilience is about protecting ourselves from the distractions which keep us from remembering who we really are. The Indian spiritual guidebook the Bhagavad Gita warns us of this when it says, “Three are the gateways of hell- lust, anger, and greed, leading to the ruin of the self. Therefore avoid all these. He who passes by these three dark doors has achieved his own salvation. He will reach the highest goal at last”.
Spiritual resilience comes from an inner strength, our communion with our Higher Self. Now we make a commitment to follow the path of Dharma, our true purpose in life. We have faith in the great teachers who have gone before us and left their footprints for us to follow but true spiritual resilience is having faith in ourselves. Faith in the inner knowingness, that we can rise above any challenge. Unlike physical and mental resilience, we now move into a state of letting go, surrendering to the Grace of the Divine. “Thy will be done.” This is the ultimate level of resilience. We step out of the drama, becoming the witness of all. When we realize our Oneness with all creation, nothing can harm us, nothing can weaken who we truly are. We have transcended resilience and stepped into unbounded freedom.