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June 2002


RESILIENCE: KEYS TO A PEACEFUL SOUL

Introduction by Paula Peterson

Throughout our earthly journey, we often find ourselves struggling with obstacles and challenges of various natures and levels of intensity. Hopefully, we learn more about ourselves in the process. The article I've included further below on "Resilience" tells it well. Before we get to the article, however, I will share a story.

Etched deeply in my memory is a particularly poignant scene in the 30-year old epic movie, Little Big Man. Dustin Hoffman played the part of a white man who was raised by the Lakotas after being abducted by them during a raid on his families wagon train when he was a little boy in the early 1800's. Over the years, he grew to deeply love the wise old Grandfather of the tribe, and when it was time for the old man to die, Hoffman escorts him to a remote, picturesque hilltop so that he can lay down and end his life.

They are alone in this place with sweeping vistas. The old Grandfather - ceremonial prayer staff in hand - gazes across the vast open plains and eloquently calls out his gratitude to Great Spirit for all experiences during his long earthly life, thanking Spirit for both the good and the bad. He is at peace with all of it and happy to let go of his body to meet his ancestors in the afterlife. It is a beautiful, yet sad moment. A few in the theater audience are sniffing and blowing their noses: for during the course of the movie, we, too, had grown fond of the old Grandfather.

He lays down on the ground and proceeds - as was the custom of certain indigenous peoples - to simply let go of the body at will, thereby, ending one's life. Hoffman has tears in his eyes - as many of us do - while the old Grandfather closes his eyes and becomes very still. We don't want to see this lovable old man pass away as the theater becomes dank with the sounds of soft sobbing. Oh, these tear-jerking scenes ... how could they do this to us!

Shortly, it begins to rain and a few drops splash on the face of the old Grandfather. His eye lids quiver a few times. Then suddenly, he sits up, looks around, stands up and says, "Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn't." He grabs Hoffman's arm and is escorted down the hill ... and into several more years of happy life. Thanks for the comic relief!

That scene remains vividly etched in my memory partly because it was beautifully acted (the Native American elder who played the part of the Grandfather was Oscar-nominated for best supporting actor for this role). However, for the most part, the scene has remained a vivid recollection because of the indigenous wisdom of the Grandfather: he was truly thankful for all of life's experiences - both the good and the bad.

That's a tough one for some people to swallow - particularly when one is smack in the midst of a crisis. And yet, once the crisis has past, many of us will look back and see the reason - and the wisdom - behind it. Crisis always brings opportunity for important change. But it isn't easy.

During times of crisis and deeply challenging circumstances, I have found myself having reasons to be thankful. Even though in some instances, it was next to impossible to do, the practice of giving thanks - having a state of gratitude - has been the leading cause for a shift in perception: what I perceived as an over whelming crisis along with the emotional turmoil associated with it, suddenly lessens in intensity. From then on, it becomes easier to be in resilience and maintain a greater sense of peace throughout a particularly difficult event.

Achieving a sense of calm and peace in facing the challenges of our lives doesn't automatically bring a magical solution nor does it force an outcome to go the way we want. Nevertheless, having a sense of peace and resilience does tend to increase the opportunities for a miracle to occur. I have noticed, too, that the more resilient and grateful I can be in a challenging moment, the faster I move through it and a solution - or peace of mind - does tend to arrive sooner.

It seems that the more we dwell on the "awfulness" of a situation; the more we hold on to our emotional charge of fear, resentment, regret or grief; the more we drag it out for hours, days, months and even years - the more we actually re-enforce the power these events have over our lives. In this way, we limit the amount of happiness, peace, clarity, creativity and personal fulfillment we can achieve.

We often do not know the full range of who we are and what we are capable of until we are faced with severe challenge that provokes change. To live a life that is easy and challenge-free doesn't provide enough friction to encourage and stimulate new growth which can strengthen us in many ways.

Achieving greater resiliency in the face of difficulties is liberating. The more flexible and resilient we can be in any given situation, the less power a situation has over us. Events come into our lives to help us grow and become more whole.

We can learn to recognize the gifts of self-knowing that each circumstance brings. We become more authentic and free to be who we really are - not a false persona that we acquired to "fit-in" in order to gain approval of family, friends and society which only fosters a temporary illusion at best.

In becoming more authentic through self-knowledge we gain greater self-confidence, self-acceptance and self-love. What follows, then, are greater achievements in life, deeper healing and increasing creative fulfillment. Jesus of Nazareth declared as one of the most significant keys in creating a fulfilling life is to "Know Thyself." And it is through the challenges and adversities of our lives that we come to know who we really are. Namaste' - Paula Peterson

** The following is excerpted from "Bouncing Back From Bad Times," The Harvard Women's Health Watch.

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RESILIENCE : Keys to a Peaceful Soul
"Bouncing Back from Bad Times"

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Life is formed by two forces: the events that take place and the way in which we react to those events. Some people are laid low by relatively minor reverses, such a getting a traffic ticket or being passed over for a promotion. Unavoidable losses, such as children leaving home or the death of a parent, may send them into depression.

However, others are undaunted by terrible misfortune - catastrophic illness, the deaths of loved ones, financial collapse. One quality that separates the first group form the second is resilience.

Resilience is the ability to recover from an adverse change. The trait is as important to human beings as it is to rubber balls. We don't bounce back well without it.

Although some people seem to be innately better at coping than others are, resilience isn't established at birth. It can be enhanced or eroded later in life. Experience is a great help. Recovering from one setback makes it easier to come back from the next.

Because it is so important to success and even survival, psychologists have devoted quite a bit of attention to defining resilience and to investigating ways to enhance it. Much of the information on resilience has come from studies of people who are unusually resilient: concentration-camp survivors; children of broken, impoverished homes; people with severe physical handicaps; and others who have succeeded against the odds. These people share many of the following characteristics.

Authenticity. Being the same person inside and out contributes to resiliency. The person who is content to be herself doesn't waste time and energy maintaining a facade or trying to conceal an unappealing "real" self. Nor is her identity dependent upon external factors, such as money, position, or association with others. Thus, she isn't likely to be devastated by the loss of these factors.

Willingness to accept responsibility. Resilient people don't see themselves as victims, even when they find themselves in circumstances for which they are in no way to blame, such as a natural disaster or a serious illness. Instead, they think of themselves as confronting a challenge. In doing so, they "own" the experience by addressing the situation with a positive action. When they err, they acknowledge their mistake and use the experience as a learning one.

Acceptance of change. Like it or not, change has become one of life's constants. Moreover, it's occurring at an accelerating rate. The resilient see change not as frightening but as presenting new opportunities.

Responsiveness. Resilient people are attentive to their environment. They are aware of the world around them. They listen to others and are open to new ideas. This gives them the flexibility to adapt to changing technology, social customs, and economic climates.

Faith in themselves. Resilient people are self-confident. They don't fret about whether or not they can rise to the challenge; they just take it on. They remind themselves that if others have bounced back from adversity, they can as well.

Ability to take risks. Although they aren't daredevils or given to foolhardy endeavors, the resilient are willing to strike out into the unknown if there is a reasonable chance of success. They are often creative or entrepreneurial in spirit.

Belief in the transcendent. This often manifest as religious faith, but it may also be a love of nature, art, music, or humanity. A sense of purpose beyond oneself often produces the unflagging conviction that life is worth living.


Have a great day !!

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