We hear a lot about ‘resilience’ these days. I think the word is often interpreted as some extraordinary toughness that is needed if we’re to survive challenges that appear in life on a regular basis.

But resilience is essentially about flexibility and the ability to “bounce back”; about being equipped to react with an element of elasticity as opposed to inflexible, rigid and uncompromising attitudes.

As it happens, Ainslie Meares encapsulated the word resilience in one of his remarkable poems circa 1980 and long before it became the catch word of the 21st century:

Some run for shelter,
The tree holds firm
And sways with the storm,
The eagle is borne higher and higher (Thoughts, 1980)

Reading his words again causes me once more to reflect upon nature. Because trees – and all they have to offer by way of example, are a magnificent, natural mouthpiece to offer inspiration to we human beings.

Look at the Australian eucalypts and how, after horrendous fires not that long ago, they are once more bursting forth into new life. Note the fierce winds we have experienced in Melbourne in recent seasons. In my garden, two of the liquidambar variety, side by side with a dividing neighbor’s fence between, tossed huge branches to the ground and left a trail of debris that took some time and expertise to correct. Yet now both trees stand tall and refreshed, ready for the buds of spring as soon as the sun appears on a consistent basis.

If we can see a resemblance between ourselves and trees, we can begin to learn the knack of holding firm and swaying with the storm whenever the storms of everyday living cross our path. Then, as human beings, we can mimic the remarkable combination of calmness and strength that embodies the eagle … or any similar natural being.

Of course eagles and other similar beings don’t have to contend with that powerful human element – anxiety! For us humans, anxiety can be our strength and our weakness: strength in its protective element and weakness due to our tendency to allow it to dominate. When that happens, our resilience is weakened.

So what is resilience in a nutshell? I like to think of that gift as a valuable human quality without which one’s health and wellbeing can suffer. I like to think of resilience as a reflection of one’s inner strength and personal spirit. I like to think of it as the buoyancy – a kind of life raft – that supports us in everything we are and in everything we attempt. Yes, part of the quality of resilience is ‘toughness’. But in the best sense of the word, not as a hardened affectation that lacks regard for flexibility. Resilience gives us power, keeps us positive and focused and keeps us resistant to the possibility of being tossed along through life in some hapless manner with no true sense of direction. And it enables us to bounce back after we’ve weathered the storm.

In teaching SMT, we emphasise the significance of the attainment of ‘inner strength’, one of the outcomes of practicing Stillness Meditation. This leads to resilience, which is why regular and consistent stillness practice is very important, not only when the going is tough but also when we are sailing smoothly through life; look at it a savings account for resilience – to access whenever needed! How interesting it is to remember that from simply doing nothing it is possible to gain tremendous strength!