Over this past year, I think it is safe to say we have all had our collective share of new or exacerbated struggles. Personally, this has been one of the most challenging years of my life but also one of the most profound personal growth.

In the Fall, my husband and I went on a bit of a spiritual retreat, part of which included a psychic reading using Tarot cards. The first card that came up for me was “Betrayal” and the second was “Death”. Yikes!!! Although this sounds pretty grim, it was only half as grim as it seemed. Betrayal was definitely the theme of my life at the time. Different events that had transpired in the preceding months had surely left me feeling betrayed on many levels…emotionally, physically, personally, and professionally. The “Death” card fit too but not because any type of physical death was looming, thank goodness. The “Death” card tends to signify an ending of something or letting go of attachments, an increased sense of self-awareness, or some other sort of profound change. That fit the bill as well as I struggled to find my way through it all.

Buddhists often use the phrase, “making lemonade out of lemons” when talking about the potential for positive change and growth as the result of adversity. This is also what we refer to as resilience… in its highest capacity. Resilience is generally defined as the ability to withstand and recover from adversity. Although it is certainly a win to be able to tolerate and bounce back from adversity, our darkest days represent an even greater opportunity… the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to get closer to who we want to be and who we are meant to be. I also firmly believe that when the universe can’t get your attention with a gentle whisper or a tug, it will eventually slap you upside the head until you get the message and learn what you need to learn. I am beginning to understand the lesson is always the same… to overcome adversity, no matter how devastating or painful, with more grace, more peace, and more love. This allows for true resilience.

Our journey toward true resilience is just that…a journey, one of never-ending commitment and practice. I believe the following are key practices to help get us get there or, at least, closer to there.

Mindfulness is the practice of observing our thoughts and feelings (emotional and physical) without becoming attached to them and without reacting to them, which is often our tendency when faced with adversity. Our primal brain wants to take over in an effort to protect us, but usually ends up wreaking havoc when there is no real danger present. Mindfulness requires us to use our highest metacognitive brain function to rise above the fray by getting quiet, noticing, and responding from our highest ground. Mindfulness brings us to the present moment away from the trappings of the past and the worries of the future, which allows us to respond from a calm and wise mind. We can certainly practice mindfulness through meditation, prayer, chanting, or dozens of other modalities but, most Importantly, mindfulness needs to be practiced throughout the moments of every daily life, especially the most challenging ones.

Gratitude is not just an emotional response. It is a choice and a practice. During periods of adversity, gratitude often does not even occur to us as a choice or, if it does, it is elusive at best. However, choosing gratitude in the face of adversity catapults us toward true resilience. It essentially forces us to “make lemonade” by finding some positive that has come out of our experience. Choosing gratitude makes all of our experiences meaningful and growth promoting in some way, thereby banishing the distinction between good and bad. Gratitude makes it all good.

Forgiveness, offered to others, the universe, or oneself, is a practice as well and surely not an easy one at times. Similar to recognizing the inherent good in all experiences, forgiveness allows us to recognize the inherent good in others as well as ourselves. Our ego desperately wants something or someone to blame, whether it be someone else, a situation, or even God. It is important to realize that this blame will not change the situation or grievance in any sort of positive way, but it will serve to keep us stuck in the drama and angst of the situation. We can honor our feelings as humans and take appropriate action without holding on to anger or upset needlessly. Forgiveness allows us to move forward and turn our attention toward love, which feels much better than pain.

Love is the likely result of mastering the practices above. When we can mindfully live our lives in a state of gratitude and grace, we are opened up to love as fully as possible. Everything else is literally squeezed out, especially fear. I recently did a little experiment with one of my young clients with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). Lucas has given me permission to discuss our discovery and success. Recently, when working on trying a new food, Lucas was very anxious and locked up. If I could use one word to describe Lucas it would be “loving,” which gave me an idea. I suggested that Lucas name the small strip of bread we were working with. He thought for a bit, and said, “Bernie…Bernie is his name.” I said, “Ok, I want you to imagine that Bernie loves you so much that he wants you to feel so free and so happy, and I want you to look at Bernie with as much love and care for him as you possibly can.” With that, Lucas was able to take a nibble. Ahh… the power of love

Best wishes on your journey toward true resilience.