One of my go-to books for resilience-building is Pema Chodron’s classic, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. I picked it up years ago at a bookstore when it screamed at me, “Here’s the book you need right now!” Over the years, I have gone back to it and found it a trusty friend.
Chodron is an American Buddhist nun. Her other books have titles like, The Places That Scare You, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Practicing Peace in Times of War. All useful books but this first one that I found (though not the first she wrote) brings me back over and over.
Essentially, the book is full of practices and insight about how to have more compassion for ourselves. Chodron writes:
“Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe…To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.”
Self-awareness and compassion for ourselves is an essential piece of resilience. Resilience isn’t a badge to earn, a medal to be awarded, a state of being that we claim as our own. Resilience is a daily practice of centering into our own selves, opening our eyes to those around us, and claiming our own place in the world.
We are told daily by advertisers, politicians, celebrities, teachers, bosses and even by those close to us that we fall short, that we are inadequate, that we are not smart enough, rich enough, thin enough, good enough. Kindness and self-respect allow us to hold these opinions from other people up to the light of our own wisdom, to let the ones that don’t fit fall away and to risk acknowledging the complexities of confronting the ones that stick to us.
Getting through difficult times will require both internal and external support. Spiritual practice, developing compassion for ourselves, allows us to open more fully to the love which is around us, to believe that we deserve it, to receive it.
Many of you do me the honor of sharing your difficult times with me, and allowing me to become part of your support system as you navigate choppy waters. Many of you share them with one another, finding people in the community who have suffered with similar problems or faced similar challenges. Depending on a huge variety of factors including age, gender, temperament, and family of origin, each person will find different pathways through.
Spiritual communities, be they Buddhist monasteries or UU congregations, exist specifically and intentionally to offer support through hard times which is wholistic and compassionate. We are all on our journeys, individually and collectively. May we be ever kinder to ourselves and thus able to be kinder to one another!
P.S. If you are going through a hard time, did you know that UUCM has a care team who wants to send you some love? If you need meals, or rides, or home visits, they would like to know about it! Please visit the Connect page on our website and scroll down to “Care Team” to learn more.