Resilience

Embracing Resistance, Igniting Resilience

I recently met my friend John, whom I know from Argentine tango dancing. Over lunch he shared with me that four years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease with Parkinson’s disease–which has been progressively impacting his life. He said that at a recent dance, his arm started shaking and his partner asked if something was wrong. His physician has now recommended he stop driving. Following the initial diagnosis, he refused to believe it; he resisted its reality. But currently he is embracing the physical changes rather than resisting them. How did he get there?

Meaningful LifeA life of sameness and predictability is far easier to accept than change and unpredictability, but the latter are inevitable. They happen in our work, relationships, and health, as well as our culture, laws, and, notably, weather. Sometimes the change is so dramatic that it can result in our feeling devastated, and thus we resist adapting to it. But there is a resiliency of the human spirit. In an e-mail after our lunch, John wrote: “The real lesson in this experience is the realization that you have Parkinson’s; not that you are Parkinson’s. When I overcame that obstacle, relationships became more precious, gestures became more meaningful, and life became more joyous.”

Embracing resistance as a tool

Resistance often gets a bad rap. If you were offered a new job, you might feel both happy and apprehensive about accepting it. You might have doubts about whether you’re truly qualified to do the work. Uncertainty and fear about the new and unknown are a natural part of human existence. Our ancient ancestors were concerned about what was directly in front of them: Is this something I can consume or will it consume me? What if we were able to view doubt—and thereby resistance—as a guide instructing us to carefully consider before we choose the best action?

What causes us to both welcome and resist change simultaneously? Fred Nichols, managing partner of Distance Consulting, wrote in his blog: “Resistance is evidence that people care about something and want to protect or defend it.” Resistance often reflects real challenges we need to consider, and it can enable us to go within to find what is most important. Resisting, in fact, can be viewed as a way of defending and preserving our lives.

Gretta Thunberg

Gretta Thunberg

Resistance is prevalent in today’s society. One person who currently exemplifies resistance on the world stage is Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. She started learning about climate issues at age eight and three years later became depressed and lethargic and stopped talking and eating. She was then diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism. Rather than allowing her mental disorders to limit her, she now considers them her “superpower.”

Greta has embraced resistance as a tool. In 2018 at age 15 she made a commitment to protest every Friday outside the Swedish parliament. Her OCD has enabled her to be a tenacious demonstrator on the implications of climate change; she’s mobilized young people and adults to take action on a global scale. As a result of her persistence, on September 20, 2019, four million people protested in over 2,500 events in more than 163 countries on all seven continents!

Three days later, Greta addressed world leaders at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in New York City. She accused them of stealing her dreams and her childhood by their inaction on climate change: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. . . . Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Accepting resistance

When we recognize our personal resistance to change, or even to the status quo, it does not serve us to ignore it. We first need to be with the resistance—reflect on it and inquire What are we resistant to and is there a message we should heed? In questioning ourselves we begin the process of embracing the resistance.

Synonyms for the word embrace are accept, welcome, and take to heart. Accepting a new reality gives way to welcoming what is, thereby enabling us to take it to heart—and ultimately embrace it. When we embrace it, we bring it into the light, which offers a broader perspective. We then gain the wisdom to handle it. When we are stuck in resistance and fighting, we become locked into a counterproductive mode of perpetual suffering.

RelationshipsJohn slowly faced the reality of his circumstance; he accepted his resistance and ultimately embraced it. By doing so, he opened himself to his true essence—beyond the Parkinson’s. While limitations on his lifestyle are evolving, he’s not focusing on what he can’t do or won’t be able to do in the future. Rather he’s living each day mindfully and with gratitude for all the things he can do and for what he values most—relationships. He seeks creative ways to do things and remains open to new experiences. As for Greta, she accepted her diagnoses and then channeled her efforts into a purposeful mission.

From resistance to resilience

We are living in unprecedented times, with massive changes unfolding all the time. They are global, economic, social, and environmental—as well as personal. New technologies are taking the place of jobs. Environmental disasters are driving migration and causing species to become extinct. Our challenge is to meet these changes with equilibrium.

Our capacity to overcome adversity is innate. According to psychotherapist and consultant Linda Graham, author of Bouncing Back, Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, resilience is the capacity to respond to pressures, changes, and even tragedies quickly and effectively.

resilienceThere is an innate drive for all living things to thrive. When a seedling encounters resistance, such as an obstacle that blocks its light and restricts its growth, it bends toward the light or finds an alternate path to it. When we humans experience trauma and setbacks, Graham encourages mindful awareness that shifts our perspective and enables us to discern options and make wise choices. She believes that we all have the capacity for resilience; by reestablishing centeredness, we become whole and have the opportunity to flourish. Embracing resistance ultimately ignites our resilience.

beginnings from endings

Beginnings from Endings: Hope for Something Better

Every ending creates space for a new beginning to emerge—a seedbed of potentiality and hope for something better. It’s a law of nature that life continually seeks places to germinate. Beginnings from endings can be an exciting time for us with opportunities for change. A time to establish a new habit, relationship, city, or a completely new way of life. But it also means saying good-bye to what we have known, loved, or lost.Continue reading

Life balance as harmony

Joy, No Matter What!

I am proposing something that may be radical, perhaps antithetical to your thinking. No matter the circumstances of your life, you possess an essential inner joy that you can access even as you navigate whatever turbulence or disharmony may be present. How can that be? You’ve had this great loss, disappointment, betrayal. How can you possibly feel joy in the grief of the moment? Perhaps at that moment you can’t. But there is always another perspective waiting to present itself. Eventually, what’s next or how you can move forward is revealed. As you allow this process to unfold, joy is waiting patiently to glow again inside you. Let’s explore how to cultivate joy.

Continue reading

Resilience

How to Build Resilience

Why is it that some people languish when facing adversities in life while others bounce back and flourish? It’s a question of resilience—the capacity to respond to pressures and tragedies quickly, adaptively, and effectively. This isn’t a trait that some people were born with while the rest of us missed out. The capacity for resilience is mostly established during the first three years of life. This capacity is rooted in learned patterns of behavior. The good news is that even if you did not learn resilience early in life, you can still acquire it. Continue reading

greek-hero

Your Life: a Hero’s Journey

Though you may not think of yourself as a hero, you do play the starring role in the story of your life journey. It’s a story you’ve been composing since you took your first breath – maybe even before. Many supporters have acted as guides, teachers, and mentors to help and inspire you along the way. Some may also have provided their idea of how you should live your life and the path you should follow. But ultimately, it’s your story, your life, your journey that required you to make difficult choices and carry out heroic actions to bring you to the chapter you inhabit presently. Continue reading

lifespan

Whole and Complete as You Are

Not long ago, I read that our average lifespan is 30,000 days. How many days have you already used up and how many might you have left?

Life is so precious. Each day is a blessing that holds a responsibility to express your special gifts into the world. What would your days be like if you weren’t bogged down by the past, reacting emotionally in the present, or anxious about the future? What if you could feel really at home and at peace in your skin, be in tune with the deepest desire for your life and express your best self in the world?Continue reading

navigating change

Liminality: Navigating Change, Life’s In-Between Spaces

We’ve all had this experience:

inbetween spaceThings are moving along in a natural progression. Life is good. Then something happens that turns your whole world upside down.  You may feel overwhelmed, confused, or you may feel euphoric. Perhaps you’re not sure how you feel. You’re navigating change, and you’re in a state of liminality.

Navigating Liminality can be challenging and requires great courage.
It can also be a time of deep inner reflection.

Rites of Passage

navigating changeThe word liminality, originally coined by anthropologists, referred to various rites of life passage. The root is the Latin word, “limen,” meaning “threshold.” It’s the crossing over from one state to another, as in the space between wakefulness and sleep.

A change of place, social position or age can precipitate this condition. Liminality has three stages: 1) Leaving where you’ve been or experiencing a loss 2) Passing through an ambiguous stage 3) Emerging into a new realm with renewed resolve.

Life passages are often celebrated
through formal rites or rituals.

In an indigenous culture, an adolescent moving into adulthood performs a vision quest to find himself and his intended spiritual and life direction. In modern culture, ceremonies are performed for graduations, engagements and weddings. One’s entire life is recognized and honored at a funeral or memorial service.

Often these events are led by elders, shamans or clergy. They help guide us through these transitions, offering wise counsel and encouragement to pass through the liminal threshold for what lies ahead. Wise guides are not always present for our passages, though.

Navigating loss

navigating change“Who are YOU?” asked the Caterpillar. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present –at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

~Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Some life changes come about through an unexpected circumstance or catastrophe. There is little, if any, time to prepare. Whether experiencing a natural disaster or a personal loss, we can never know how we are going to feel or react. This can be the most challenging liminal state of all.

Losing a loved one, even when it is inevitable, creates a void and can leave you feeling empty.

When my mother died, I felt like an orphan. As I dwelled in the liminal cave of healing, I began to rethink who I was and what was my purpose in the world. With the help of a strong support system, I emerged at the other end inspired and with a huge amount of creative inspiration and lust for life.

Loss of a relationship can be a blow to your self-esteem. Thoughts like, “what did I do wrong,”  “I’m not navigating changeloveable”, “I’ll never find another”, appear and cloud your mind.

When this happened to me a few years ago, I made the decision not to take it personally, trust that it was for the best. Beating myself up or holding anger served no healthful purpose. I’d been through other losses and always bounced back. I needed to forge a new path. A surprising healing takes place over time for most of us, especially those with a strong support system.

Job transition

With job loss, however, the longer one is without a job, the more likely one’s liminal period can include anger, depression and loss of self-esteem. A plummeting sense of self-worth can paralyze.

Yet, this can be a real opportunity to reevaluate your life. Examine your gifts and talents and uncover your true passions. Discover how you want to live the next chapter of your life. I have led many people in transition through this process.

Transformation

A liminal period can be life-transforming – for better or worse It may be short or long-lived, even permanent.

Sometimes people drop out of society. Some vow never to be in relationship again, living with anger, guilt and resentment. Some accept jobs at less pay or status. Others heal, seek new relationships, start businesses, and re-enter the social whirl in a new form.

This can be an opportunity to step back, to review your creative foundation and life purpose. A time to test your potential.

I move into liminality every time I begin to write these articles. I may think I know what I want to say. Then, through research, introspection and extemporaneous writing, new ideas emerge and flow onto the page.

Inner work of navigating change

Liminality can be the rich soil to grow creative ideas,
a new road to travel or even a new identity.

IntentionOur lives are constantly in flux. We’re absorbing new information, reflecting on the past, aspiring towards the future. Discomfort with transition can cloud our perspective. Anxiety and fear may try to divert us. Know it is just your fragile, threatened ego trying to block change.

Liminality can be taken into meditation where you can step back and reflect. Watch your mind, your thoughts and feelings. See problems as objects floating inside your head based on your perceptions, not who you really are.

Invite the ego to sit in your guesthouse of awareness, while you explore with openness the vast potentiality available to you. Explore the liminal space between thoughts, between breaths. This clears the pathway to commune with your Source where truth, peace and love reside, bringing you to a place of wholeness and enabling you to reenter the world anew.

“From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole I’ve been told where I must go and who I must be…….but this is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here.”Adventures of Alice in Wonderland

Welcome liminality to help you decide where that will be. ~ Namaste

Join my free iRest meditation groups held weekly on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons where you’ll find space to rest and explore this further.

welcome your emotions

Welcome Your Emotions: The Language of Your body

We live in a culture that stresses suppression of emotions. Don’t show your tears or welcoming emotionsyour anger. Hold it all in – and be nice! Yet, emotions such as anxiety, anger and sadness are not truly unhealthy in and of themselves. Our emotions provide valuable information. Welcoming your emotions and learning how to decipher their code and language can lead us down the path to wholeness.

The body offers emotions as messengers, signals that something is not quite in synch with our needs, values, or inner drive for fulfillment, to contribute meaningfully, connect with others, and so on. By welcoming these emotions, and asking questions, they can share information to guide us to something we need to know about our health and well-being.

As we learn their language and heed their message, we can then learn to live with them, and use them to help us make better life choices, while being free of their potential negative impact on our body and mind.

Of course, there are positive emotions, too. They also need to be questioned; for example, we need to examine our euphoria as we indulge in luscious desserts or buy another new outfit. However, we are going to focus on the emotions that contribute to feeling bad and stress that causes pain and suffering.

Managing stress

Stress itself isn’t really the problem. It’s how we handle stress that gets us in trouble. At an early age we taught ourselves how to handle stressful situations. Based on our core beliefs,welcoming emotions our subconscious is automatically triggered by words, language, actions or circumstances around us. Perceptions and judgments arise along with a whole chain reaction of thoughts, sensations, feelings and emotions.

Often emotions seemingly rise up for no apparent reason. Yet, there is always something that triggers them, whether from your external environment or inside you.

One way to address this is to pause whenever you notice that you are feeling discomfort, distressed or depressed. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what you were thinking or doing before the feelings arose, or what happened around you. Creating this awareness can help you consciously work things out or make the appropriate changes in your thinking. Each time you pay attention to these triggers you’ll begin to experience a release of the negative emotion or feeling more quickly.

neurocircuits 2What you are actually doing is re-wiring neuropathways and brain patterns that you unwittingly formulated long ago. The good news is that modern brain science tells us that the brain has plasticity. No matter how old your brain, you can change these patterns and eliminate the reactions to previous stressors.

The body can hold memories of stress stored over time. For many years my job involved a lot of phone work. This was before headsets. Over the years muscle tension accumulated in my left shoulder, neck and ribs. Even after I started using a headset, my body automatically positioned itself as it had learned to do. A pattern was ingrained within my body and brain. One day I realized what was happening and moved the phone to the right side and consciously worked at retraining how I held my body.

Welcoming emotionsThe body and mind also can hold memories of a traumatic event or accident. This is referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We frequently hear this term in reference to rape victims, people living through natural disasters and war veterans. It’s estimated that up to 20% of today’s returning veterans have some degree of PTSD and 30% for Vietnam veterans, many who continue to suffer today.

Embodied emotions from the past

Many years ago, I was at a friend’s home and accidentally chipped a ceramic piece. The friend said not to worry as her husband could repair it. However, the next day she phoned me extremely angry about the incident and the fact that “you didn’t even say you were sorry.” Following that call the emotions poured out of me. I suddenly had a flashback of being a little girl playing with a little porcelain tea set that I broke. My mother, bless her heart, was an ‘emotional spanker’. When she discovered what I had done – she became very angry and punished me. I now know my mother was doing the best she could based on her challenging life. But, at the time, I simply felt ashamed that I wasn’t a perfect little girl for her.

While my experience can hardly be compared to those who have experienced war or disaster, I was reliving a traumatic experience. We all experience mini traumas early on that can come to haunt us into our adult life if not nipped in the bud. To this day, the words “I’m sorry” are expressed like a knee jerk reaction whenever I “mess up.” But more and more I feel compassion, for myself and others who may be reacting.

Engaging mindfulness to welcome emotions

I’ve worked for many years with military veterans, mostly men from the Vietnam era, facilitating a guided meditation called, “Integrative Restoration, iRest.” Research has shown this modern adaptation of the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra to reduce the effects of PTSD, insomnia, chronic pain, and more. I am so proud of the dedication of the men I’ve work with who, after only three months, experienced many positive effects.

drop in waterOne of the hallmarks of the iRest protocol is to welcome emotions, as well as sensations, thoughts and beliefs that show up. We’re not trying to change anything. Rather, by welcoming and learning to be with the emotion or belief, the nervous system and the brain begin to return the body to its natural state of well-being and equanimity.

Positive and negative emotions

You can use your positive emotions to help combat the negative ones. In the iRest protocol we welcome emotions by feeling into each emotion and where it shows up in our body. We do the same with an opposite emotion followed by feeling back and forth between opposites. Finally bringing both together neutralizes their impact, restoring the body and mind to natural calmness.

Many factors impact how our body experiences emotions – foods we eat, exercise, the thoughts we think, and our inner exploration can play a role. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, being in nature, and recreational activities all can contribute to a healthy functioning of our brain, mind and body.

Balance and Harmony

As a former dancer I love moving my body, and often take a break to just move spontaneously with music or in silence. I recently led a workshop with female veterans, many who have the added impact of sexual assault issues. The workshop is called, “The Joy of Being in Movement.” This playful, expressive and guided meditative movement and body exploration experience provided them with a great outlet to express and release the emotions of the child within.

Our bodies, in synch with our brains, are constantly seeking a state of balance and harmony. We only need to tune into its channel and heed its life-enhancing message.

I invite you to attend my weekly iRest meditation classes when we get more in sync with what’s important in our lives.