75% of all people will experience some trauma at some point of their life (Hepp U, Gamma A, Milos G, et al. 2006). Whether it be a childhood trauma, an accident, bullying or abuse, the effects of trauma can be damaging. Anxiety, hyperarousal, disassociation, skin disorders, digestive disorders, personality disorders, depression, all can radically limit and interrupt normal functioning in society.
What is more, I know this first hand. In fact, I came to mindfulness through my own trauma. After suffering from 3rd degree burns in an accident which killed my friend and injured others, I was diagnosed with PTSD and mindfulness has been an integral resource in my recovery and healing.
One of the defining factors of mentally surviving a trauma is psychological resilience or the ability to experience trauma and to return to a mental state that is stronger than before the event (Psychology Today website, undated). Hora Estroff Marano, the editor-at-large of the journal Psychology Today explains that “[a]t the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself- yet also a belief in something larger than oneself. Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves, transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs” (Psychology Today website, May 21st, 2013, para. 1)
Marano’s definition of resilience can be compared to the underlying principles of the Buddhist concept of mindful compassion in that psychological resilience requires a shift from self-focus to a focus on others (compassion), a reluctance to define themselves according to the their experience (non-attachment), and by ‘perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs’, a state of mindfulness and a deep comprehension of impermanence is required with the meeting of each moment as it unfolds.
Indeed, my mindfulness and compassion practice has contributed to my psychological resilience in spades!
Earlier this week, I spent two days with a colleague teaching a workshop on trauma and compassion. This workshop was delivered to service users, as well as mental health professionals looking to find their own resilience in the face of trauma. We explored many of the different compassion practices that we cover on our mindfulness and compassion training (for more info on our training pathway, click here); however, we also acknowledged that there are many ways of building up our resources to hold our trauma in a safe and kind way and as a means of establishing resilience.
I explored this concept of building resources and becoming both the holder and the held in my blog post last week: The Hold and To Be Held. I encouraged readers to engage with my colleague Choden’s practice of The Holder and The Held; however, while I was teaching the workshop, we explored some of the personal resources that we might already have in place that help build up our potential to become the holder.
As I have already mentioned, one of my main resources is my mindfulness and compassion practice. The Self-Compassion break is a regular go to for me. This practice has me acknowledging the suffering that is happening in a given moment (mindfulness) but also helps me move beyond myself by linking my suffering to the suffering of others (common humanity) and then bringing a warmth and kindness to my experience. However, through doing the work with the group, I discovered that I have been neglecting another resource that in the past has brought much solace. I have been neglecting my need for mindful connection to the earth and nature.
In the past year, I moved houses. And when I moved houses, I moved from living ruraly to living in a town. Connecting in with the land has, all of a sudden, become not so accessible. This has been a huge loss! So, after the workshop finished, I was determined to find my way to connect in and make sure that I really prioritize this activity in my life as I move through times of difficulty, and indeed, when I am negotiating my trauma. For when I am in nature, I am able to move beyond myself, notice that life is all around me, and that life is cyclical and ever-changing- it is always in a state of flux. Moreover, nature helps me feel connected- less alone. For me, connecting in to the earth is like drinking a cold glass of water on a hot day.
So, I thought it might be a good idea for this week’s challenge to spend some time reflecting on what are the resources that help you hold difficulty. Perhaps, it is your mindfulness practice, or your faith community, or exercise, or spending time with a good book, or sharing with a friend.
Maybe it is difficult to identify a resource and you would like to build some. In which case, why not download our MBLC or CBLC apps (for iOS and Android) and start exploring some practices. Or, if you are a member, why not log on to our weekly sit this evening where I will guide the practice of The Holder and The Held, as well as have a bit of a discussion on building resources. In this way, maybe we can move towards a more resilient life!
Click here for The Self Compassion Break
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