12 Jun How I awakened my resilience
Resilience is an inherent human quality. It is not something we have to work hard on or need to develop. Resilience is not something we have to do. It is who we are. The only problem is that most people don’t know this.
For a long time, I didn’t know this either. I believed that life is stressful and stress is unavoidable. I believed that I needed to ‘live smart’ – to navigate my life in a way that minimised the impact of stress. I knew I needed to apply strategies to manage the unwanted impact and ultimately to become as resilient as I possibly could to endure pressures and do a good job of living.
I developed a breakdown-proof, evidence-based self-care routine that I was proud of. I ticked all the boxes.
Healthy meals – tick.
Regular exercise – tick.
Daily meditation – tick.
Eight hours sleep – tick.
Hobbies – tick.
Socializing – tick.
I read many books and completed many questionnaires to understand my psychological make-up even better. I worked on my self-beliefs, on self-acceptance, on my emotional control. I was trying to improve my attitude. I was doing a lot and I was doing my best. I believed I needed to do all of this to stay resilient and be well.
And then life threw me a curve ball. The year 2014 started with a bang. And it wasn’t a good type of bang. It was a hugely unexpected and hugely stressful BANG, BANG, BANG! At the beginning of the year my relationship broke down. At the same time, it became clear to me that my new job promotion was not what I wanted. And then my mum was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition.
My first reaction to these events was to ‘strengthen’ my self-care routine. I doubled my efforts – doing twice as much. My ‘stay well to-do list’ became twice as long. I was trying really hard to stay positive. I insisted on looking on the bright side. But regardless of all my ‘doing’, I couldn’t deny it – I was drowning…
It was life’s ultimate knockout. I felt completely confused. I literally remember asking myself over and over – what is going on? I felt I was putting so much effort – good effort – into being resilient and making my life work. I felt I was doing the right things. So why was I feeling like this?
I experienced complete burnout. There was no more ‘spring’ in me. During those days my exhaustion and low mood were so overwhelming that I literally couldn’t do anything. This worried me because I believed wholeheartedly that the only thing that could keep me well was doing the right things. And at that time I just wasn’t… I just couldn’t.
And then, in the midst of those dark days, I realised something very simple and at the same time very powerful. I realised how my mind works. I suddenly become aware of the continuous stream of thoughts in my mind. I saw my heavy, depressing and exhausting thoughts dominating my psychology and emotionally weighing me down. In that moment I realised that it was my thinking that was drowning me – NOT MY LIFE! In that moment I saw my life with fresh eyes – simply ‘as it is’.
This spontaneous realisation was in itself uplifting and vitalising. The effect was immediate and breathtaking. I will always remember this moment – I laughed for the first time in months!
The whole experience woke me up with a BANG – and this time it was a good type of bang. I woke up to the workings of my mind and its emotional impact on me. I immediately understood that there was nothing wrong with me – I was completely fine, my life was completely fine and I was only feeling the effects of my depressing thinking.
I realised that thoughts were just like clouds, flowing through my sky-mind – passing by and casting feeling-shadows over me. I realised how I innocently believed and clung to my thoughts and how I took them to be real. Well… they are not real.
My inherent, in-built ‘spring’ returned straight away and I noticed I was effortlessly bouncing back… or, as I sometimes say, I was ‘bounced back’.
There is natural buoyancy to life…
I realised that there was nothing I needed to do to get better. I realised that my health and resilience are always there and the only thing that can happen is that the negative narrative going on in my mind can cloud them.
I realised that the only thing I needed was to be aware of my own habitual thinking and how it always impacts on how I feel. I understood that I don’t need to exercise any effort whatsoever to become resilient – I am always resilient. I understood that I don’t need to change my thoughts or think more positively. How can you change clouds passing through the sky? Why would you?
This experience completely changed the way I relate to stress and resilience – and to my entire life. First of all, I understood that I couldn’t outsmart life. Well, actually, I don’t want to any more! Someone once told me that life is a contact sport. Life serves curve balls together with the most beautiful pleasures and joys. I now invite life with open arms in all its fullness. I know that ‘stress’ is created in my own mind by my own thoughts. And all thoughts pass sooner or later – just like clouds.
Nowadays, when I feel stressed – I press the pause button. I simply stop and notice. What is going on inside of me and outside of me? I check in with my internal weather and whatever is there I just allow… the clouds, the rain and thunder… I know that it is all transient. The miracle is that the more I allow it the sooner it passes and eventually clarity arises… and then I know what the next step is. That’s how my resilience works now.
This insight allowed me to connect with my deeper sense of self. I sometimes call it the ‘space beyond’ my thinking clouds – the space in me that is unchanging and calm. I know now that I am always well and it is not related to any ‘doing’, dependent on any strategies or external circumstances. And I see how from this quiet space the inspiration to do arises… but this doing is much more spontaneous and much less prescribed. It unfolds. I unfold. I flow with life. I have discovered that I am resilience – that’s who I am. And that’s who you are too.
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