Resiliency: Frequently defined as how one bounces back from adversity. But a recent experience had me contemplating, can I exploit this premise in a time of fortune and pleasure? How can we do things when not in crisis that also expand our capacity.Here’s a travel route that seems like it came from the Great American Race:
Palma de Mallorca - Frankfurt - Anchorage - Juneau - Sitka - Warm Springs Bay - Sitka- Seattle - Athens - Santorini - Paros
On either side is glorious wonderment and beauty. While I’ve always dreamed of jumping through wormholes from one place to the next, to date it is not yet physically possible. I still have to physically make the journey. The route makes no sense. So to get there I anchored in the thought experiment “I am testing my resiliency.”
Resiliency has not been a term that was at the forefront of my awareness or often considered until hearing it again from Scott Lyons during our last Mind module in Mallorca. Of course the most compelling life stories are those that involve overcoming extreme challenge- war, death, loss, bankruptcy, heartbreak, famine from a variety of circumstances. From the Wikipedia search which defines resiliency in regards to climate, species, materials, entertainment and psychology we see the following:
Psychological resilience is defined as an individual's ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions. Adversity and stress can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial worries, among others. Resilience is one's ability to bounce back from a negative experience with "competent functioning". Resilience is not a rare ability; in reality, it is found in the average individual and it can be learned and developed by virtually anyone. Resilience should be considered a process, rather than a trait to be had. It is a process of individuation through a structured system with gradual discovery of personal and unique abilities.
A common misapprehension is that resilient people are free from negative emotions or thoughts, remaining optimistic in most or all situations. To the contrary, resilient individuals have, through time, developed proper coping techniques that allow them to effectively and relatively easily navigate around or through crises. In other words, people who demonstrate resilience are people with optimistic attitude and positive emotionality and are, by practice, able to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones. But, just as one can elect to enhance muscles through resistance training, one can develop resiliency from simply swimming upstream by choice. I have been in non-crisis resiliency training by my own design. Let me preface this by saying I acknowledge how overwhelmingly first world this example is. Moving from Los Angeles to Bali, and then unplugging from roots to travel with no fixed abode for the last five years has definitely increased my capacity to respond to a variety of circumstances with increasing skill and ease. Both creating a new school, and traveling to over 20 countries to meet new communities with new information has tested me on every level, and facilitating longer and longer trainings has been a self-created marathon. All of this has fulfilled and fed me on every level - and yet all of it has also led to a continuous ramping up of my own capacity.
Last month I had the gift of another non-crisis resiliency challenge that let me follow a deep inner prompting to travel to a place completely out of my more normal routes. From a training in Mallorca in June until my next training destination in Paros, I thought I would take an easy journey for my three weeks off through Balearic islands to Santorini and then leisurely find my way to Paros, the latter two being places of deep vibrational resonance and healing for me. And places of my own reflection and retreat. Knowing that from Paros, my next stop is Bali and into another marathon training, this period is generally spent on non-eventful coasting and restoration.
But then came the whales. Having flung myself just prior to the Mallorca training to a family reunion for my mother’s 70th birthday aboard the National Geographic Lindblad expedition ship in Southeast Alaska, I became hypnotized by the contrast from the ancient architectural marvels of European cities I had just toured to the deep untouched open waters of the Chatham Strait in the high latitudes. My eyes, my skin and whole body responded to the cooler, temperate rain forest of SE Alaska as dry ground responding to the rain. And Oh! the humpback whales in their abundance and community flanking the ship most days, their whispy sprays and deep exhales like a meditative vortex of the whole span of evolution. If not whales, then the seals, sea lions, sea otters, Dall’s porpoises, or killer whales.
After one week in the reverie I was back in the dry, arid island of Mallorca for the 100 hour “Mind” module. My body again adjusted for the heat, the language, the long days in training, the deep dive into the inner landscape, dreaming nightly of the deep aspirations from the giant blowholes which function like huge noses that rise from the sea masking lungs larger than most cars.
The invitation to return to Alaska, to spend some time with the Alaska Whale Foundation as a guest accompanying them as they perform field research on the whales came as an unexpected interruption to these sacred three weeks off. Now came the choice. Do I stay in this familiar climate, and travel close to familiar places and situations, something I’ve done as part of my own routine for the last three years, knowing I have to get eventually back to Greece, OR do I make a different choice. One outside of the familiarity of routine, outside of the 3 months’ warm climate Mediterranean/Indonesia yoga garb that filled my suitcase (for make no mistake, Wellies and wool caps, gloves and rain jackets rule in Alaska!) , and make the choice that would definitely test my resiliency. From Mallorca to Warm Springs Bay, Alaska and back in one week.
What is the formula for looking at time and money and experience? I couldn’t look at anything rationally. Only what one friend offered me, “When you are 90 and you look back at your life, which will you wish you had done?” From that view, only “See the whales!”. So the challenge: Can my body go through the multiple flights, jet lag, then expense- halfway around the world, for one week? It would be so much easier to say no- but that’s not the choice I made.
Now on a boat to Santorini after making the 24 hour journey each way, I’m in the final hurdle, the five hour boat ride back to another little island in the Mediterranean.
Trust me, I know this particular example does not involve crisis - nor is it potentially a very compelling dilemma. But, if you have made it this far, I think there is something to learn:
After seeing the first humpback whale surface, not ten meters from our small zodiac boat in the smooth fjordal waters of Warm Springs Bay, there is no doubt that my whole understanding of what is possible when we take the harder choice opened up to another layer of comprehension. Fostering the process of resiliency is not about making the easiest choice. It is about making choices that expand our capacity on every level and challenge our skill set or mind set - the capacity to unknow, to be wrong, to apologize, to take risks, to bounce back from hardship, to navigate difference, and to hold more things simultaneously, when not in crisis. This can only serve in a new unpredictable way when we encounter more hurdles not of our making.
Now I have a reference: submerge into the sea, one or two heartbeats a minute, stay for 6-8 minutes, exhale - deep and spacious like the whale. Time and distance and expense are all impediments that can be overcome.
Our programs are often challenging. Our intention in them is to expand capacity and resiliency, and what I am now seeing is that the ramifications of that off the mat are only now starting to fully show me the possibilities.
I invite you to explore with us something out of your comfort zone. The trainings are in and of themselves journeys to the edges of yourself in order to see what you are capable of.