Discipline One of Six: Resilience
My spiritual memoir Spiritual Audacity: Six Disciplines for Human Flourishing is built around six spiritual disciplines of which the first is resilience. Is this an important discipline in your spiritual life? How has it become or not become the basis of your flourishing?
Resilient people use a well-developed set of skills that help them to control their emotions, attention, and behavior. Self-regulation is important for forming intimate relationships, succeeding at work, and maintaining physical health.
—The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté
How does spiritual resilience factor into your life today?
Resilience: The single most important spiritual practice in my life. Having lived with and through so many difficult circumstances in my life, I have needed to make resilience a core spiritual practice for myself. This is largely about transforming suffering.
One of my teachers compares transforming suffering through resilience to feeding a family from a spoiled dead fish. A dead fish stinks. You want to keep it as far away as possible from your supper. Yet if you compost it in the ground, with lots of water and sunshine, it can become a source of new life to make a meal for all.
Life grows forth from death. No matter how hard we fall or how difficult it may be to recover, even if we want to give up, resilience will always lead us to something good in the end. That dead fish can be transformed into food for the soul through the practice of resilience.
Lift up and tell the stories of resilience in your own life. We all can practice this spiritual discipline, and with practice, we all become better at it. All will be well.
Thought-provoking. I have always considered resilience to be a quality, the end product of faithful practice of spiritual disciplines. I have thought of disciplines more as habits like practicing rigorous honesty, service to others, or even conscious gratitude. Resilience has been a welcome by-product.
But I can reformulate that. About 10 days ago, my younger sister was diagnosed with lung cancer at 54. I have a close family and we are devastated. But we see the practice of meeting the challenge head on as a spiritual discipline and the ability to do so as a spiritual gift. The grief can consume us, especially my parents. This is a road none of us wants to travel, but we will travel it together, and meet its challenges honestly and squarely.
My mother has struggled at times over the years with depression, and we spoke about the difference between grief and depression. Her response to the crisis has surprised me: she is almost feisty – she gets out of bed for Natalie, does her exercises for Natalie, attends to her daily business for Natalie. She may be called upon to be a caregiver again and she is determined to be ready. Depression be damned. In that sense, resilience is a discipline for her and a sense of purpose is one of its gifts. The tragedy still overwhelms; the challenges ahead remain unknown. But the decision to accept with grace what cannot be changed and to bear the attendant burdens is a decision we can make daily.
I was brought up to believe that hope, faith, joy, and love were gifts of the spirit which we could do nothing on our own to earn or develop further. My mystic teachers affirm that we cannot earn them, they come by grace alone, but through the practice of spiritual disciplines we can cultivate ourselves such that we more readily and deeply experience these gifts when grace offers them to us. You, your mother, and your sister are in my prayers. Since the pain and suffering appears unavoidable, I pray that some moments of grace also come along with the pain and suffering, and that you are open to them. Jim