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Mindful : October 2019
PRACTICE But usually we can right ourselves again. We put on our big-kid pants, face the distress of the moment, and deal. Occasionally we are called on to deal with greater troubles and adver- sities, not just hiccups but earthquakes that over- whelm our capacities to cope, at least temporarily. They include troubles like infertility or infidelity, a diagnosis of cancer, losing a job several years out from retirement, a child arrested for selling pot, or a son wounded in com- bat overseas. When these bigger bumps happen, we have to dig deeper into our inner reserves of resil- ience and our memories of times when we’ve success- fully coped before, while also drawing on external resources such as family and friends. Here, too, finding our way back to our center, our inner equilib- rium and ability to cope, can be more difficult if we are told we are—or perceive ourselves as—less than capable, less than skillful, less than good enough, or unworthy of help. And then there are times when too damn many disasters happen all at once: We lose a child in a car accident, or cause a car accident, at the same time that an aging parent has a stroke and a freak thunder- storm causes flood damage to half the house. When catastrophes like these strike, we are vulnerable to losing our resilience altogether, temporarily or even for a long time. If we have experienced too many unresolved traumas in the past, we can be espe- cially susceptible to falling apart and not being able to recover. When our reserves are already depleted, we can begin to feel like we’re just barely afloat and about to go under. How in the world do we bounce back from traumas like these? By strengthen- ing our resilience. Resilience—the capac- ity to bend with the wind, go with the flow, bounce back from adversity—has been pondered, studied, and taught in tribes and societies, in philosophical and spiritual traditions, and through literature for eons. It is essential to the survival and thriving of human beings and human societies. We now also know that resilience is one behav- ioral outcome of a mature, well-functioning prefrontal cortex in the brain. Impor- tantly, whether we’re facing a series of small annoy- ances or an utter disaster, resilience is teachable, learnable, and recoverable. It takes practice, and it takes awareness, but that power always lies within us. → 1 Pause for a moment and notice any expe- rience of kindness, gratitude, or awe that you have experienced today or remember from the past. Maybe your neighbor drove you to and from work for three days while your car was in the shop, or you saw a blue heron rise up from a pond at dusk. 2 Attune to the felt sense of the goodness of this moment—a warmth in your body, a lightness in your hear t, a little recognition of “Wow, this is terrific!” 3 Focus your awareness on this felt sense of goodness for 10–30 seconds. Savor it slowly, allowing your brain the time it needs to really register the experience and store it in long-term memory. 4 Set the intention to evoke this memory five more times today. This repeats the neural firing in your brain, recording the memory so you can recollect it later, making it a resource for your own sense of emotional well-being, and thus strengthening the inner secure base of resilience. As you experience and re-experience the moment, register that not only are you doing this, you are learning how to do this. You are becoming competent at creating new neural circuitry for resilience. — Linda Graham Taking In the Good ABOUT THE AUTHOR Linda Graham is a licensed marriage and family therapist and mindful self-compassion teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is also author of The Resilience Toolkit (New World Library, 2018). 50 mindful October 2019 resilience