Mindfulness: Beyond Resilience
I had a fascinating discussion with two leaders of great organisations the other day. We were talking about many things but, inevitably with me, it turned to mindfulness.
One of the people knew a lot about it, practiced it when they could, and wanted to develop it further within their organisation, and within our wider society. The other knew about it only through conversations with me, but was very supportive of my vision of bringing mindfulness to the whole of Scotland, which is what we were exploring.
One of the leaders then used the word resilience, and it resonated strongly with the other leader. Resilience is what people need. Their own organisations’ people, and people in general. What’s needed is to help people understand how to be resilient in a world where austerity has worn away the first layers of the armour we use to protect ourselves.
Mindfulness. Resilience. Mindfulness has a connotation of lightness, nice if you’ve got the time, a luxury for those who have already cracked the real difficulties in life. And to crack those difficulties requires mental toughness and an ability to recover. In other words, resilience.
This way of seeing things, life and work as tough places, and a certain Reverend I.M. Jolly Calvinist mindset that it’ll always be hard and cold and grim, pervades our thinking. If you see life in this way, then resilience is what you look for. A way of protecting ourselves from all that is unfair, brutal or overwhelming about life.
Life itself helps to promote that view. The news is full of horror stories, from wars and murders to corrupt politicians and greedy business people. It’s easy to see the world as a place of woe and despair. So let’s make ourselves resilient. That way we’ll cope with the hardest of times.
Yet, the sun also shines.
Mindfulness, properly understood, is the ability to notice clearly and calmly, curiously and openly, what life actually presents from moment to moment. Amongst the many effects of doing this are an increased sense of inner peace, a desire to reach and help others, a feeling of deep appreciation for being alive, and gratitude for all you have.
Frankly, who needs resilience if you already feel like that? You are already protected by layer upon layer of deep mental well-being. My parents died a few years ago, dad first, mum twenty-three days later. I felt deep grief and loss. But I was still happy, still deeply at peace, still of the view that life and all that lives are precious.
Can you perceive that you can hold totally opposite emotions simultaneously? Loss and love of the mere fact of existence? Grief and happiness? Tears and happiness? It is possible. We can so nurture ourselves, our inner qualities that we can be not only resilient when the stuff hits the fan in life, but can rise above it all and have joy, a still, quiet, private joy, that is stronger than any of the woes that life can throw at us.
Resilience can protect us. But love of life can make us invincible. ▢
Martin Stepek is a member of the JONAA team in Scotland, a founding member of JONAA and sits on JONAA’s board. A Scot with Polish heritage, a Mindfulness teacher, poet, published author, columnist on Mindfulness (Ten for Zen and the Sunday Herald) and the Chief Executive of the Scottish Family Business Association.