Oakville Zen Meditation

#458 How to cultivate resilience during difficult times July 23 23

 How to cultivate resilience during tough times.                   All of us can feel the impact of challenging times. What we cannot control doesn’t mean we’re powerless. When we’re up against change, uncertainty, anger, grief, worries, and stress, resilience is the key to navigating life and emerging with more serenity. We can cultivate resilience through the practices of 1) mindfulness meditation & 2) Self-compassion.  In other words: resilience grows stronger with practice.  We can carve out pathways of greater courage, resilience, serenity, and compassion through practice.  This is the miracle of neuroplasticity which is the ability of the brain to make a zillion of new neural connections throughout ongoing practice.   The following Zen meditation-based five steps help us face difficult emotions, re-center, and find calm. These steps don’t have to be done perfectly. Think direction, not destination. The key is practice                                                                1. Name it to tame it                                                                                                                             It’s helpful to remember that our emotions are here for a reason. They serve as a smoke alarm, letting us know about an impending fire. When we ignore or repress our emotions, it leads to bigger problems. Mindfulness teaches us a different way to manage difficult emotions: To acknowledge and name what we feel is called “name it to tame it.” Research shows that when we acknowledge and name our emotions it allows the body to physiologically calm down. Naming an emotion puts the brakes on your emotionally reactive brain, and allows you to see clearly.                       2. Accept…..even welcome your emotion!                                                                                                          Acute emotions have a limited time span, typically lasting less than 2 to 3 min. on average.           They arise, do their dance, and pass away, just like waves in the ocean.                                                         When we remember that this painful feeling will not last forever, it becomes more manageable.                 Through practice, we can learn to welcome all of our emotions with an attitude of kindness and curiosity, and patience. This counter-intuitive tool involves becoming interested in this emotion by experiencing its effects on our body. For example, you may feel sadness as a tightening in your throat, or fear as a contraction in your belly. All emotions, all of them have a signature in the body. Scan it to learn from it.                                                                                                                              3. Be kind to yourself w/o being narcissistic Self-compassion is not our typical response when we’re facing a challenge, have made a mistake, or are in pain. Too often, instead of kindness, we judge, shame, and criticize ourselves.                    These self-judgment and shame aren’t helpful. They actually shut down the learning centers of the brain and inhibit our ability to heal, change, and grow, in other words: we are putting oil on fire.                 The antidote is self-compassion, learning to bring kindness to our pain. The easiest way to practice it is to treat ourselves as we would treat a dear friend facing a similar situation. The willingness to face the pain in ourselves and in life takes great courage. As we practice self-compassion, we learn not only to grow from our own struggles and sorrows but also to connect with the suffering of others.          4. Recognize our common humanity                                                                                                     There are many others right now all over the world who are also frightened and overwhelmed.         As we recognize our common humanity, our isolation begins to lessen, and we understand that we’re all in this stressful world together. It can be helpful to send compassion to both yourself and everyone else who is suffering.                                                                                                                              5. Practice w/o trying to be perfect right away.                                                                                                    Through practice, small changes lead to big emotional adaptation. In fact, it is one of the most important discoveries of neuroplasticity. This is a very hopeful message because it means that all of us have the capacity to change, heal, and grow. Perfection isn’t possible, but transformation is.     Practice one of the steps mentioned at a time.  Thank you