"Finding Resilience" - Oil On Canvas
“Find strength in the dark edges.
Let light plunder the unknown depths.
Find purchase. Find poise.
Own your place in this world”
A certain level of foresight tells me that this will be a challenging year, yet one of an exceptional kind of growth. In the light of this, I’ve been thinking about how you set an authentic vision, and stay resilient.
I write this as much to myself as I do to you. I hope it resonates with you.
Resilient Like A Rock
We tend to celebrate those people who overcome impossible odds through grim determination. By gritting their teeth, shouldering their burden, and pushing the rock up the hill no matter what…
There’s almost a military, dogged determination in the eyes of the CEO or the politician that push through whatever the agenda of success, no matter what the cost.
These rock-like people.., sometimes wish I was a bit more like them.
Almost emotionless, they don’t seem to let things affect them in the way I let them affect me.
Maybe you are the same.
The rock is pounded by the elements, by the rain of pain, and the sandy wind of circumstance until its ground down into the ground washed into the sea.
Bent out of shape. Smashed to smithereens.
Sand has its own beauty. But it's lifeless. Static.
Resilient like water
Another way is to “Go with the flow. Let it wash over you. Stay positive. Rise above it all.”
I've met people who don't let circumstances touch them in a different way. They flow through life like a river, untouched by pain and experience.
Or so it would seem.
I'm guilty of this. I'm guilty of both! I'm an expert at avoiding pain… or feeling it way, way too much.
Letting the waters of circumstance wash all the wash through me all the time.. Overwhelmed by the experience of others, lost in a sea of world imagery. It's hard to distinguish yourself from this place of boundaryless blending of energies.
The little voice inside me was says:
“I have to feel.
I have to stay open.
I have to consider the impact on others and take in the circumstances fully.”
It feels fragile. It feels vulnerable, and so it must be authentic. I unconsciously let all of this in, and it seems that the more that I walk the creative path the more and more open and sensitive I become.
Maybe you are like this too.
It can look spiritual. And there are times when it's necessary. But it's not the whole story.
It lacks depth. It lacks groundedness. It lacks soul. It lacks the courage to take a stance for something, to be shaped by that interior “something”.
Resilient like a tree
There is a third type of resilience.
Do you know what the best wood is for making boats? It's taken from the tree that has weathered the most storms. It's flexible, strong, and adaptable wood. Not too brittle. Not too soft. Sculpted by centuries of circumstance.
The reason for this is that the tree learns to bend with the wind, but not break. It lets a certain amount of the elements in.. but not too much.
It rests between stormy seasons. It knows when to grow, and it knows when to shed its old layers. The rings of the tree are its record of pain and grace in the face of the unyielding cycles of circumstance.
Through these cycles of change, the tree not only holds but creates its unique shape in unison with the elements that shape it. Water, sunlight, air, earth, blight, frost, disease.
All of it.
It grows with the pain and through the wealth of circumstance.
The difference is that a tree does not consciously choose to do this. It just does it.
We can choose. We can choose to feel, or shut down, or bend or flex.
And sometimes we are broken. All trees will eventually fall to the ground. As will we.
Resilience in us
In extreme cases we see it In the case of those who have an unstoppable illness.. the crippling disease.. the unchangeable life circumstance. Yet they remain.. to some extent, UN-Bitter. This is not true of many.
Many become hardened. Shrivelled and small when the pain strikes. Who can blame them? When Disaster strikes it is horrendous. Tragic. A horror show.
And yet there are those who don't overly harden their skin, or calcify their sensitivity.
They remain open when they are required to be.
They put on the brave face for the children, the wife, the grandchildren. They take elegant poise in this circumstance, yet know it takes energy to do this.
They remain closed when they are required to be.
They take honourable action in the face of the circumstance. But they also take honourable in-action. They know what they shouldn't be doing. They are clear on what they are responsible for. Yet also clear on what they are NOT responsible for, including the response of others to their pain.
They take the time to recover this expended energy.
In this I see an entirely different kind of strength:
Open enough to feel what is happening, and strong enough to pragmatically direct the course of their pain to the good of those around them.
The dignity of this kind of strength is beyond words.
It's a beauty that stands at the far edges of human comprehension.
Me, you and the CEO can take a powerful lesson from this type of courage.
When we are broken
Being bent out of shape and broken, that is just the beginning of another cycle. One that we don't like to talk about. But it is just as real as the one we see above the ground.
A certain amount of power is derived from the knowing that despite all the pain, and the circumstance, our roots sink deep into a ground of being that sustains us. More than that: This ground is the ground that we have grown out of, and that we will return to.
Our leaves (visible and tangible fruits of our lives, our bodies, our relationships, our legacy) are nurtured by waves of light wether we like it or not, even when the sun is hidden.
We are a unique configuration of something far wider deeper and higher than we take ourselves to be. Whether we like it or not.
In the vast cosmic recycling of the elements, and the suns and worlds and stars. Doesn't it make perfect sense that our own unique configuration of consciousness also goes through this same process?
It's hard to remember that when the pain hits. But I believe it to be true.
When “the crunch” hits its hard to stay large.
By large, I mean, holding the realization that ALL of this.. The fact that we even have breath in our lungs, the mystery of consciousness itself, the vast cosmic recycling of the elements… that we can feel anything… is a goddamn miracle. We forget all of that. We take it all for granted. It's the background noise of our existence.
But pain is pain because we dare to care. Because we dare to have open hearts. Because we dare to let things in, and be made by one another, and the words say and the experiences we share. They leave an indelible print, not just in us, but in those that we touch. Because of the privilege of bond, and connection with one another, and with the things we care for…are the experiences beyond measurement that have an eternal quality to them.
Because of these… Pain is inevitable. And its fucking hard.
But that's not my point. In fact, it's no longer my goal to stay large and to feel ALL of it, all of the time. That makes you precisely of no use to anyone.
Maintaining Poise in the presence of pain is useful.
Meet pain by looking it in the eye. Ask the difficult questions. Let yourself be affected. But not too affected.
Do this with backbone. Be clear. Be decisive.
But not passive. Not aggressive.
It's a long term dance that requires recovery between sessions.
Poise. Recovery. Repeat.
Recovery means taking time for yourself and doing what you need to do (or not do) to re-energise your system.
Dont be hard on yourself. You won't be able to do this all the time.
It's in taking honourable action based on the insight you receive, as you go.
In the long term it’s in know that wounds will heal given time, and given the grace to let them heal.
Given time we can put a ring around this experience. Once again you will be strong for others, given time and patience. This experience will be testament to the power of authentic resilience.
Of loving a human spirit at its finest.
This is resilient... like a tree.