Gaining Resilience and Hope

Following spring’s gentle showers and the scent of the first buds and blooms carried on gentle breezes, after the summer heat that sears our backs on the beach, after the turning of the trees and the garnish of falling leaves as we give thanks for abundance of the earth, winter comes to freeze us in a moment in time. Life retreats into dormancy, and stillness settles over the landscape. Plants pause their growth or die back to the bare minimum, readying themselves to be reborn in the spring. Nature follows a rhythm and knows when to take a break, when to cycle back into activity. We humans can’t seem to do the same. I am amazed at our ability to keep busy even during the winter months.

Before the spring of 2020, our lives were a revolving door of seasons, sceneries, situations, and relationships with no end in sight. Constant, rapid change was the norm. We expected it as the pace of modern-day living, and our lives flowed alongside it.

Then the pandemic hit, and we were compelled to slow down. Sheltering in place, we entered a kind of hibernation — one driven not by the season but by the crisis. Death stared each one of us in the face. The ghost of the future appeared and disappeared outside our window. Each day cuddles the same fears, concerns, and worries only to unload them at our front door, and we are frightened more from a future that could seem dystopian to some extent.

In our enforced dormancy, we assessed our priorities and our values. Frozen in place, we questioned both the content and the context of our lives. In doing so, we gained a new perspective, and we realized our way of living was problematic to the core, both individually and collectively. Many of us realized for the first time how deeply unjust and unsustainable modern life is. And now that we’ve understood this, we cannot go back. We cannot ignore what’s happening within our lives and around us; we cannot escape the inevitable reality that is unfolding before us.

Almost two years into the pandemic, we are frightened and yet hopeful that this nightmare will soon end. In the space between fear and hope, we realize that the true value of our lives lies in our ability to hold fast to our values and align our actions to make genuine, lasting change as we take part in the collective repair of our societies. We can no longer tolerate meaningless work or hide under our desks meditating, hoping to reach Nirvana in the hills and valleys of our mind. We are here now, faced with all the injustices and disasters, and we are called to do real work that makes a difference.

It is inevitable that we will move ahead into a world of chaos and disarrangement, and that we will feel grief and anxiety as we do. This is understandable given the present level of collective uncertainty, let alone the experience of witnessing civilization collapsing on all levels: government, education, healthcare — the pillars of our modern-day society. Alongside this, we feel the agony of the harm being done to the natural environment. To navigate this new world, we need both resilience and purpose.

Our assessment of the current reality must be one that takes into account the speed and scope of the change that has swept the world in the last couple of years. The rate at which our lives have shifted and the speed at which we are able to perceive and process the change are two different things. The stripe of time has been pulled beneath us faster and faster, accelerating as we’ve experienced worldwide transformation. The loss, the sorrow, the brief moments of joy — everything happens at record speed. Even when our lives seem to be at a standstill, time is always moving forward, and the world is changing more and more quickly. It does not stop to allow us to process what happened. As a result, we feel as though we have arrived in a foreign land with drastically different surroundings.

Reflection is essential to our well-being. The more the human psyche is able to process the speed of change and its impact, the more resilient we become and the more capacity we have to do the meaningful and effective work that is needed at this time. We must allow ourselves to regain nature’s cyclic rhythm of activity, productivity, change, and processing of that change. Winter is a natural time of introspection when we can realign ourselves, our priorities, and our vision of the future.

History teaches us that catastrophic worldwide events have taken place before, and it reminds us how resilient the human race is. It empowers us to take charge of our lives and move ahead with confidence — not because we know with certainty what the future holds, but because we trust our own resilience. When we know who we truly are, we can move forward with grace and ease.

Between fear and hope lies our greatest power. That’s where the seed germinates and pushes up through the soil. It is a moment in which we discover our purpose. We become motivated, focused, and determined to create the world we want to see, and to do so with care and intention. Individual power rises from the ashes of submissiveness, fear, and manipulation. Truth becomes our north star. Our lives become the nucleus for the change we want to see in the world. We are finally ready to take charge of our lives, to create a brighter future for ourselves and our children. The new world ahead of us requires mental, emotional, social, and spiritual nourishments that each of us is able to contribute once we learn how to become resilient and purposeful.

Our fears, concerns, and worries are legitimate. At the same time, they need not overwhelm us. The answer lies in understanding change and learning how to adapt while moving forward. I would like to share with you an equation for resilience and freedom:

[Authentic Self-Awareness + Life Purpose] x Your Ability to Perceive and Process Change = Resilience

Resilience starts from the inside. Authentic self-awareness refers to the journey we have taken to learn who we truly are at the core level: our values, our strengths, our gifts, and our talents. To this, we add our life purpose, which is composed of our vision, our dreams, and our passion. It is the arch that connects every aspect of ourselves in service of others. Life purpose rests on a foundation of hope; that is what gives the soul the strength to deliver its mission.

When we understand our true nature, the authentic self generates ripples on the surface of our daily life. Our inner self meets the outer world as we seek to paint the empty canvas Divinely provided to us. We may enact our life purpose in domains of any size, from the immediate family to relatives, our community, and the world at large. No matter how small or how big our circle of influence, we are passionately expressing our purpose, and that is a form of resilience.

Then comes our ability to process change. When change outpaces our mental and emotional processing of events, we experience trauma. We feel disjointed, overwhelmed, and burned out. If the impact of the events is not addressed, we may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Trauma is an unprocessed emotionally charged event that gets stuck in our psyche. It is important to learn to work skillfully with change. In practice, this means making the right shifts in our lives at the right time so we can adapt and move forward. Faith in the Divine and His support is essential. Faith helps us place change in a realistic perspective and accept the parts that are not in our control while praying for what we want to see happen. Without faith in a higher power, we have less capacity to cope with negative change.

In this day and age, resilience is a necessity for survival. It is imperative that we learn the art of self-composure, that we learn to balance ourselves as we cross the turbulent, rushing river of life. So I invite you to take the time during the winter months to slow down, surround yourself with the people you love, and let the chill of the season transform your future-oriented thoughts into snowflakes that settle quietly on the landscape. Reflect and process the emotions, traumas, and shifts that have taken place for you over the last couple of years. Once you have gained a healthy perspective, you’ll be prepared to let your creative thoughts bloom again and move you in the direction you have chosen for yourself in the coming year.

Wishing you a happy and joyous year ahead!