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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Resiliency and Mindfulness

Wikipedia has done it again....

I woke up this morning with the word, "resilience" in my head so I played with it for awhile tossing the word against the back drop of my consciousness like a morning game of racquetball. The word had come up for me lately in my health prevention and promotion work as we use it to describe a primary outcome of our work with young people in particular. In our work it relates to the ability of an individual to make positive or healthy decisions in spite of the various risk factors that may be present in their lives. As a parent, to give my son the gift of resilience is a primary goal. That means that no matter what challenges life brings him (and there will be many) he will have a well of self-worth and presence deep enough that he can always come back to his center.

This brings me back to my Wiki-AHAA-pedia moment. It turns out that resilience is an engineering term (it is hazy but coming back to me) that relates to the ability of a material to bend (deform elastically) without breaking. It is interesting to note that it is described in terms of the maximum energy (per unit volume) that can be elastically stored. You can check out the definition for yourself at Wikipedia.

If we map this definition to a human being and retain the energetic connection then our resilience is the maximum amount of energy that we can store (or absorb) without losing our center-point. How then do we increase our resilience or expand our ability to be present with greater and greater stress? Mindfulness.

I am reminded of a powerful moment with my T'ai Chi Master, John Milton...he did several unbelievable demonstrations of the simplicity and power of this ancient martial art. In this moment he had me (and several others) try to push him over as he simply "rooted himself to the earth". At first I sort of "pretended" to push (that is a deep and difficult personal teaching for me) but with his encouragement I really tried to push him off balance with no ability to move him at all. The amazing thing was that when I stopped pushing he remained balanced and still. Normally if you are pushing someone and they are resisting and pushing back when you stop they will continue moving in the direction of their resistance. Not John. He was not resisting me but rather connecting deeply to his center, to the earth.

This is a powerful message as we consider resiliency. I am in a field that is committed to preparing youth to "resist" the inevitable temptation of drugs and alcohol. It seems to me a worthy practice to teach youth to be rooted to their center, a center that is beyond (or beneath) any social or environmental factor. I know of no better practice than mindfulness in all its many forms to help individuals become more established in their center.

Be mindful this day of your center and which moments lead you away from that point of balance. Don't judge yourself, just breathe and gently come back to your center again and again.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

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