I’ve been meditating a bit lately on resilience. What is it? And if someone is resilient, are they born that way or is it a learned attribute?
If we take the dictionary’s word for it, resilience is the “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”
Ok but what are the components of that “grit,” the toughness that allows people to recover quickly?
I’ve had some personal conversations with smart people to hear their thoughts on resilience. Some mentioned the necessity for big life struggles to prove resilience. Some mentioned that they felt it was a zero sum capability, you either got it or you don’t. So that when faced with something really tricky the resilient person recovers while the non-resilient person crumbles. Some felt it could be learned by example from parents, teachers, friends while I mentioned the necessity for practice.
But how does one practice resilience since the attribute implies the necessity for personal turmoil?
Are there other virtues we can work on to build resilience in the meantime?
And if so, what are they?
I’m still on the fence of exactly what those traits might be, but I have a working theory going informed by my study of the yoga tradition.
Discipline + Relaxation + Courage + Faith=Resilience
What are your thoughts on resilience? Share in the comments below.
Yoga Sutra 1:12 abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tan-nirodhah
These mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment.
How do we achieve the state of yoga?
Practice first, but don’t get too attached.
Practice isn’t just here and there a few times a week. To truly practice, Swami Satchidananda says you must become eternally watchful of every thought, every word, and every action.
The good news is that practice really is the gift you give yourself. The Bhagavad Gita gently teaches that no amount of practice is ever wasted.
I love how Judith Laster teaches on this Sutra. Do what you can and do it fully. She says, “Whether you are driven or resistant, the medicine is the same: do what is truly possible with unwavering commitment to giving yourself to the moment. Without this intention, practice becomes another task to be completed, and it loses its ability to transform. And transformation, or freedom, is the reason for all discipline.”
Yoga Sutra 2:47: Prayatna-saithilya-ananta-samapattibhyam
The Sutra just before this one gets a lot more press because in it Patanjali mentions asana. This verse, 2:47 is translated by Satchidananda as, “By lessening the natural tendency for restlessness and by meditating on the infinite, posture is mastered.”
Mastery implies relaxation. Not the, ok, now I’m relaxed sort of “letting go” of Savasana but a deeper uncoiling that allows for infinite expansion and rooted steadiness. When we meditate or try to replicate the “well-settled” “well-established” we become it. Think of the earth, Satchidananda recommends or a huge mountain. Meditate on the steady to become steady. Relax into the immovable.
YS 1.3 Tada drashtuh svarupevasthanam
(When the thought waves of the mind are settled) then man abides in his true nature. ⠀
The mind it’s said, distorts our truth. You are not your body. You are not your mind. You are the one who Sees.
In the state of yoga the Self is realized. ⠀
How does this relate to courage?
When the Self is realized, we each recognize our infinite and divine true nature. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that Spiritual Practice is a protection from the greatest fear.
As he’s encouraging Arjuna to face his dharma and go into battle, he says that the Self is indestructible, it can’t be burn, made wet or dry. It is beyond all change.
Courage is not the absence of fear. “The most important thing to know about courage is that it cradles your action even though you are afraid,” Judith Laster. You forge on anyway knowing that you are supported by an infinite latticework of the possible. You have all the tools you need already because you are not separate from God. ⠀
Do not cower, do not hide, do not fear, says Krishna, do your duty in the world.
Yoga Sutra 1:20: shraddha-virya-smriti-samadhi-prajna-purvaka itaresham
"Wholeness is preceded by faith, energy, mindfulness, union, and awareness."
Faith is the accomplice of courage. It is both innocent and certain. Faith gives you the courage to step into the unknown. As Judith Laster describes it, "Faith is a recipe made up of part trust in ourselves, part experience of life working out, and part intuitive connection with the Divine." What should we put our faith in?
Well without thinking we put our faith in quite a lot already. The people who built our car engine, the workers who shingle our roofs, the barista who made my latte. Why not apply that same faith to our yoga practice and ourselves?
Laster says that faith in oneself is the key prerequisite to the study of yoga for it honors your instinct toward inner knowing. This inner knowing is the whisper that guides you home to the Divine in you and all around you.
Belief in yourself isn't a hooky aphorism.
Faith in yourself is the fuel that drives you home.
"Oh, this is why we practice...."
The steadiness I have tapped into during trying times I give a lot of credit to my practice. Consistent practice is the well we draw from when the inevitable tumult of life comes up.
Everyone we love will die, the blueprint we make for our life with hit a lot of construction snags, and it's going to suck.
No way around it.
I believe it is our capacity to weather these storms with grace and presence is the cornerstone of Resilience.
Practice for the sake of practice with consistency. Let the foundation settle.
Relax into the process of presence.
Have courage to do your work in the world knowing that you have all the tools you need for the journey already.
Let faith in yourself be your steady companion on your journey back home.