Resources for Recovering Resilience: Three Points to Steady You through Life’s Changes

At breakfast the other day, I commented to my friend Richard Miller, developer of yoga nidra, that when we’re going through a time of change and transition, as often happens for people at the turn of a new year, it’s helpful to remember an analogy from rock climbing: you keep three points steady on the rock (two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand) while you move the fourth point – one hand or one foot. I asked Richard what his three points were, expecting some external manifestation like work or health or marriage or creative focus, but he answered: awareness, equanimity and joy.

Wow. I toasted with my orange juice and bowed in recognition of the wisdom.

I’ve thought many times since then: what are my three points that would steady me through the changes emerging in the coming year? I came up with: 1) awe and gratitude for the many miracles of existence; 2) trust in the healing of resonant relationships, those moments of meeting that evoke a deep sense of well-being, and 3) delight in a growing sense of mastery and competence.

I’ll be teaching a weekend workshop on Positive Emotions Build Resilience at Esalen in two weeks, based partly on the research that demonstrates that practicing positive emotions does steady us, creating more optimism, more flexibility, more collaboration with others, more resilience to meet life’s twists and turns.

Ten positive emotions or practices have been well researched already: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, delight, inspiration, awe and love, though, of course, the list could include others practices worth cultivating as well: compassion, patience, honesty, etc.

As you move deeper into the changes and challenges this new year will bring, identify three practices you are willing to cultivate more of as your three points that will steady you as you meet the storms and struggles inevitable in an evolving life.

(I heard someone suggest recently, when the rug is pulled out from under you, learn to dance on a moving carpet. Mixing metaphors, but what three points will keep you steady as you dance on the moving carpet that is your life?)

The exercise is simply to set the intention to cultivate these three qualities throughout the day, every day; notice when you did, and notice the benefit to you that you did. These three points become both resource and refuge in every facet of your life: work, home, relationships, service to the larger community. What you come home to even as you move forward into the new and unknown.

My brother gave me a flag that hangs in my garden: the cartoon beagle Snoopy had his three points, too: Live well. Laugh often. Love much.