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Nella Coiro

Resilience and Equanimity

Do you ever wonder why some people seem to handle adversity better than others? Given the same circumstances, why do some give up, while others stand and fight, overcome the challenge at hand, and emerge stronger?

In this blog, I would like to talk about how we react when we’re presented with challenges, and ways that we can cultivate resilience. Below, I want to share some insights that I’ve learned over the years which have helped me. 

Learning Lessons  

Every difficulty or challenge is accompanied by a learning opportunity. In the midst of adversity, even though it can be difficult, we need to step back and ask ourselves: “What’s the lesson here? What am I supposed to learn?”

Although it’s not always easy, I order to rise above fear, we need to keep our focus on the learning opportunity rather than the obstacle at hand. One of the most important truths that I learned is that if we don’t learn the lesson the first time, it will just keep repeating itself, with greater intensity, until we do so. The situations might be different, but the core lesson to be learned will be the same.

Hope

We can live without water for 2-3 days, without food for about 4 to 6  weeks, but I don’t think that we can survive very long without hope. There isn’t any motivation to forge forward if the only thing that we see is never-ending darkness. On the other hand, if we have a strong sense of hope – the belief that “this too shall pass”, we can survive just about anything. 

Perspective is powerful. Although we don’t always have control over our circumstances, we have complete control over our thoughts, and how we choose to perceive our situation. With some work, we have the capacity to re-train our minds, shift our focus, and redirect our thinking. 

Spirituality

When I use prayer and meditation to connect with God/the Higher Power, I am given the strength to deal with each and every obstacle which crosses my path. Each morning, I thank God for today, and ask him to help me to live my best life in these twenty four hours. 

Acceptance

In the ”big book” of 12-step recovery groups, accepting that which cannot be changed, is an important tenet. An excerpt reads: “… acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake… I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes."

This is similar to the Serenity Prayer which says: “ God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Impermanence  (Everything Changes)

The Buddhists believe that all of our suffering is caused by our desire to cling to things in our physical world. Since everyone and everything is impermanent, we suffer when we lose that which we desperately cling go. This makes sense.

My father-in-law was a serene person. He did not react to the drama and disruption created by others. He went with the flow f life, and he lived in a state of peace. So, it’s not surprising that his favorite mantra was: “This too shall pass.” To this day, his influence and these words still help me through every difficult moment in my life. Everything changes. More importantly, every trauma passes. 

Equanimity and Grace

Regardless of what happens to us in life, we always have the power to control our reactions. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl says that everything can be taken away from them except the last of the human freedoms – the freedom to choose our attitude and how we respond to any situation.

Closing Thoughts 

I’m a big fan of Maya Angelou, and I particularly love her poem “Still, I Rise” because I believe that it eloquently expresses the essence of resilience. When I encounter personal obstacles, I repeat these words cited below, and they always strengthen my heart and lift up my spirit:

“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
 

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