When You Meditate, You're Cultivating Resilience

It may not seem like it from the outside, but every time you sit in meditation, you're cultivating resilience: your ability to bounce back when life knocks you back on your heels. Here's some perspective on how meditation helps you increase resilience, from WITHIN teacher Adam Moskowitz.

Your hair is either growing, or you’re going bald.

Your favorite band is not as great as they used to be. Or maybe they’re heck of a lot better because they got that new drummer.

The rent just went up. Way up.

How’s your mood now compared to an hour ago?

Relationships shift. Seasons exist. None of this is rocket science. Everyone knows that change is pretty much more reliable than anything there is.

What is rocket science—for many of us—is the practice of surrendering the heart to this ocean of shifting tides.

The familiar reminder during meditation to notice what is, or what’s here, or even the reminder to notice breathing, are all reminders to notice the way in which all things are basically fluctuating from one thing to the next. Or, as Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye describes, things dissolve “Like salt in a weakened broth.”

Perhaps what practice teaches us is that beneath the ever-flowing current of this to that is a deeper well of unshakeable, unconditional, loving awareness. Perhaps this is why we continue to sit, and explore that which is incredibly heartbreaking, totally blissful, and everything in between.

We’re convinced, based on the evidence of direct experience, that deep within the recesses of the heart is a quality of being alive that is doesn’t analyze, prefer, wish, or criticize. It just witnesses and holds space for the dramatic pain and awe-inspiring beauty of being human.

A mentor and teacher of mine often makes practice really simple when he begins to lead. He says, “If there was one word to summarize meditation practice, perhaps that word could be allow.

When we get ourselves going along the path of practice, the word “resilience” may start to have a more developed meaning. We may have once felt as though we were dealt a certain hand of resilience, and that is a fixed value. Of course, the practice of allowing includes allowing difficulty. Difficult experiences become more difficult when we resist them.

As we begin to allow what is difficult to be difficult, we cultivate resilience. We aspire to be something like an aikido practitioner who uses the opposing force of difficulty to propel towards peace, and even understanding.

Without aggression, or even a goal, we turn towards difficulty. With practice, we begin to sense into our innate quality of wholeness, our inner system’s nature to incline towards balance. Jon Kabat Zinn describes our “reserves” of resilience that live in our account, which may be cultivated with awareness practice.

Of course, when resilience is needed, life is probably not feeling totally awesome. Maybe the opposite.

And yet, what may have once struck a debilitating blow just doesn’t have the same force, or weight. Resilience, just like breathing, is not always easy to notice. We may not feel like a superhero. But we’re OK.

Keep an eye out. Indeed, our willingness to pay attention to the present moment, to sense it deeply without conditions, and our willingness to let it go, is an act of “depositing” into these reserves of resilience.

Adam teaches our morning, midday and afternoon classes on Tuesdays. After years of helping kids and teachers learn mindfulness at their schools, he's bringing his practical perspective to students at WITHIN. Join him for a class this week!