In recent times, we have seen an explosion in mindfulness practice. Experts are appearing all over social media, wanting to teach us how to be more mindful.
In addition to this, I am seeing repeated calls for better resilience. Tough times are endured better by resilient people. Ad right now, for many, these are tough times.
But I wonder. Do many people really understand what mindfulness actually is, or what it means to be resilient. I get the sense they do not. Just yesterday I read a feature article on resilience in the New York Times that referred to those people who just keep getting knocked down and then somehow, keep getting back up.
I would not define that as resilient. Persistent perhaps, dogged even. But not resilient.
Earlier this year I shared a stage at a staff conference for a large company with a Mindfulness expert, from one of Australia’s premier Mindfulness training companies. He was speaking on Mindfulness and I was speaking on Fatigue Prevention. His session was to run for 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute morning tea, then I was to speak for an hour. Then, after a lunch break, we were to do it again for a second group.
The Mindfulness speaker took the stage and commenced his delivery. As 45 minutes came and went, he had zero awareness that he was going overtime. Eventually, after an hour and 20 minutes, he finished. During the lunch break, my colleague went to his manager and asked her if she could have a chat with him and ask him if he could be a little more mindful of the time, and not go beyond his allotted session duration.
Both of us had given the organisers the amount of time we needed to present.
The second session commenced, and he did exactly the same thing. I sat there amazed. He was so lost in being wrapped up in himself that he had no awareness of the time. He was preaching mindfulness and behaving completely mindlessly. A confused message for the audience.
Being mindful is being fully aware. Being fully aware means being aware of what is happening in your environment, whilst being aware of your feelings and simultaneously, being aware of your mind and what it is doing. A part of that is being aware of what you are doing and meant to be doing. When you are mindful, you are in the present moment and you are operating as the central point of your own universe.
This is not something you can just decide to do. There are so many forces acting against you that can take a long time to work your way through. These include desires and resistances, old wounds, deeply held beliefs including indoctrination, old transgressions, agendas, things you want to keep hidden, fears and even your own ego.
It is absolutely true that a person can, at any time, take up the practice and begin to start working on being more mindful. And I would encourage that for everyone. However, I feel trepidation for the beginner who seeks guidance from someone who has a theory, but who has not first travelled the journey to genuine mindfulness.
So where does resilience come into it?
I would define genuine resilience as a capacity to travel through life and not be negatively affected by adversity or circumstance. And I am not talking about a Superhero with a Red Cape and a huge Hammer.
The person I talk about sees the challenge coming, notices their own negative responses, decides on a more helpful perspective, chooses to appreciate the circumstance, and decides to roll with it and take action to correct things. This often happens spontaneously for people when they find themselves in a position where crisis affects others, and their help is needed.
Example: You can walk into a room and a colleague could start verbally attacking you in front of other colleagues and clients. Their attack could be vitriolic and deeply personal. I would not blame you if you collapse in a traumatised and humiliated mess.
But, if you were genuinely resilient, you would notice the attack, be amazed by it, then find yourself getting interested in it, never losing your composure, and finding you still have the ability to stand your ground and take appropriate action without losing your dignity or self-respect. A resilient person can keep moving deliberately, even when the arrows are flying.
There is a wonderful scene in the Matrix where Neo begins to see beyond what appears to be apparent, sees the streams of computer code, and shifts into a mode of operation where he can quietly watch as the punches and bullets glide by.
In sport, the phenomenon is often called “being in the zone”.
Other terms I have heard include “That person is made of Teflon. Nothing sticks!” Or that person has an “impenetrable calm”.
Do you see where I am coming from? Mindfulness and Resilience are deeply intertwined. It is a pathway to genuine self-actualization.
But here is the challenge. Many who read this will immediately think, “Oh yeah! I know how to do that,” and continue on without giving it a second thought.
But if you did notice that your mind did that, and you thought, “Wow my mind doesn’t give up easily”, then you are on the path. Keep going.
And just remember. This is never about perfect. It is a life-long quest for self-evolution. Genuine peace of mind is your prize.
And, if you are intrigued, and would like to learn more, drop me a line.