Building resilience: the time to start is now

What we need to weather these tough times is resilience, and that seems to be a buzzword for this decade; many people I know are talking about strategies for building resilience these days–my friends Maria Sirois  and Amber Chand are both working on workshops to help people build resilience in troubled times.

Resilience is about taking what comes in life, good and bad, with equanimity.  Eckhart Tolle talks about this a lot–the importance of acceptance.  That is all very well for me to think about while sitting in a beautiful place on a beautiful sunny day with my family around me.  Much harder for someone in pain to be asked to simply accept what is.

Tolle and Buddhist teachers like Pema Chodron and so many others teach us that we need to practice acceptance in the good times, so that when hardship occurs, we’ll have the mental discipline and habit of being accepting–by which I think they mean not freaking out and panicking when things go wrong, focusing on the present moment through the breath, and finding the light that lives within us, no matter how dark our external circumstances may be.

When you think of someone like Nelson Mandela, who managed to survive almost three decades in prison with his spirit, courage, and wisdom intact, you have to realize that this is more than just spiritual mumbo-jumbo.  How else could he have made it through unless he was able to access some deep inner well of equanimity and peace, an inner resilience that helped him get through each day of those terrible times, and emerge not only mentally sound, but ready to lead his country sanely and sagely.

Few of us will face the challenges that people like Nelson Mandela, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, or Mumia Abu Jamal have faced.  But every life has its dark periods, and right now humanity seems to be entering collectively into times that will test each one of us, and all of us as a society.

We shouldn’t wait until things turn rough to start building our own inner reserves of resilience and strength, and to reach out to others who are doing the same.  The time to start is now.


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