Dear Integral Meditators,
How resilient are you to the pressures of life? What are the factors that you can introduce into your mind in order to increase your mental resilience? This weeks article looks at how mindfulness can help with this.
Yours in the spirit of mindful resilience,
Developing Your Mindful Resilience
Back in the days when I was a Buddhist monk, one of the things that myself and many of my ‘colleagues’ noticed after going on meditation retreat was that it was quite startling how quickly we reverted to our normal habitual behaviours and consciousness level upon returning to the ‘real world’ and our daily routine, after all the work we had put into our retreat and meditation, it sometimes seemed like in everyday terms little had changed.
I’ve thought about this a lot in the years since, and it has really inspired me to try and create what I think is a truly well rounded and resilient mindfulness training that is truly going to enable people to change their lives for the better through mindfulness and meditation practice.
So what is mindful resilience? Here is a working definition – “Mindful resilience is the capacity to remain actively aware, creatively productive, constantly learning, happy and effective in life and at work, even when faced with pressure, stress and tension from both within our mind and from our external environment”.
What then are the skills that you need to be able to develop mindful resilience as a way of life? Below I list what I believe from my practical experience are key practices:
1. An understanding of the three experiential levels of our consciousness
What is it within us that we are trying to create mindful resilience within? Within our mind. There are three domains of our mind, each of which has a particular type of resilience that we can leverage upon.
The first is our sensory-physical awareness, the second is our mental awareness and the third is our experience of awareness itself. Each of these levels or aspects of our mind has a particular type of resilience that we can leverage upon. A practitioner of mindful resilience needs to know how to access each of these levels of mindful resilience.
2. The capacity to relax into tension and other forms of stress
For your mind to be resilient under the pressure of real life situations you need to understand how you can relax into tension and other forms of stress. The first stage of this is learning how to relax into tension so that it does not prevent you functioning effectively, the second level involves learning to actually redirect the stress so that you are actually making use of it. (See for example my meditation on stress transformation, coachingservice and online course)
3. The ability to create and sustain a positive inner dialog with yourself
We have an inner conversation going on within our mind all the time. For sustainable peace of mind, inner resilience and creativity you need to be able to make that dialog positive and productive where possible, but also know how to deal with the negative, difficult challenging aspects of that conversation when it arises (please note; repressing it or pretending it is not there will not create resilience!).
4. A commitment to appreciating the good and the challenging in your life
A practitioner of mindful resilience commits to both noticing and dwelling upon the good in your life whilst also learning how to appreciate and genuinely value learning and growth facilitated by the challenges, friction and difficulty. As Jim Mclaren would say “Don’t waste your suffering!”
To be resilient you need to train your mind to be strong, to focus and concentrate, both when the object of mindful concentration is just one thing and also when the situation demands that you be aware of multiple factors at the same time. In reality this means learning that there are different types of focus, and know how to apply them appropriately.
6. Being truly comfortable with silence, uncertainty, open spaces
Undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable aspects of a mindfulness and meditation practice is developing the capacity to relax into a deep and regenerative experience of stillness and silence when we are sitting in formal meditation practice.
In order to bring this truly and deeply into our daily life there also needs to be the capacity to relax into the open spaces of un-certainty, un-predictability and un-knowing that come up time and again in our everyday real time reality . The purpose of getting comfortable with these three “un-s” is not so that we become a victim of them, but so that we can learn from them and take the opportunities they have to offer us.
Want to get started with your own mindful resilience practice?
There is obviously a lot contained within each of the points above, but here is a very short way to get started.
Stage 1: Consider the definition of mindful resilience: “Mindful resilience is the capacity to remain aware, creatively productive, constantly learning, happy and effective in life and at work even when faced with pressure, stress and tension from both within our mind and from our external environment”. Take a little time to dwell upon it.
Stage 2: What sort of images and symbols come to mind when you contemplate this definition? Select an image from your imagination that represents the energy and experience of mindful resilience as you understand it. Take that image as a focus point for your attention for short periods at regular intervals during the day, reminding and encouraging you to explore your capacity for mindful resilience.
© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com