Deepening Resilience in Difficult Times

Deepening Resilience in Difficult Times

I’m teaching my third full-length, in-person training this spring (after a pandemic-hiatus of three years)  at the Cape Cod Institute next week, focusing as always on the importance of reaching out to other people as refuges and resources in times of trouble and tragedy.

Out of a great need

We are all holding hands

And climbing

Not loving is a letting go

Listen, the terrain around here

Is far too dangerous for that.

– Hafiz

I recently heard Dan Siegel characterize our current dangerous terrain as VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Resonates with me and most folks I talk to these days, as does his acronym COAL as the best possible solution: Connected, Open, Aware, and Loving. 

Connection as a refuge and resource to find our way through VUCA has always been part of my teaching.

“Resilience – the capacity to recover from trauma and respond flexibly to misfortune and change – is greatly enhanced when we feel safely held in the hearts and minds of people close to us, or even in the sympathetic understanding of people in the same boat as us” is how I began one of my very first e-newsletters  (April 19, 2008) on Compassionate Connection Deepens Resilience, “exploring the importance of compassion, connection, and community to stabilize us when the ground is pulled out from underneath us, to help us cope with what we never asked for, what we deeply do not want.”

The newsletter offers exercises, with stories to illustrate them, in: 

FINDING REFUGE – a safe, supportive place to hang out when we are fragile or discombobulated. A safe place to cry until we’re done crying, or rant until we’re done ranting. We may seek refuge among good friends who know us well, people we trust won’t judge or disdain us when we become emotionally unglued or our thinking becomes unhinged. People who can simply sit and be with us until we re-group and are ready to face the world again 


Not necessarily reassurances that conditions “out there” will get better soon – the job will come through or the chemo will knock back the cancer or someone else will come along soon to make you happy – because those external conditions may not manifest the way we want or when we want.

Rather, friends remind us of, and share their faith in, our own innate goodness, our own innate courage and resilience. They remind us that we are “naturally creative, resourceful and whole” when we have lost any sense of that ever being true or that it could ever be true again.


One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons is an inspiring moment when Calvin trips and falls down the stairs, lands in a heap at the bottom, dazed and confused Then he stands himself up again, throws his arms up in the air as though welcoming applause and says, “Ta da!”

Any time we turn a mis-step into a mastery, we are deepening our resilience. Any time we can see the AFGO – Another Fricking Growth Opportunity – in what appears to be a disastrous turn of events, we are deepening our resilience. Any time we can shift our perception of a potential catastrophe to a larger, wise understanding of the big picture, we are deepening our resilience.

It is often our friends, partners, mentors, who remind us to look for the life lessons in every moment of our life’s journey, deepening our capacities to cope with the next overwhelming event, and the next and the next.

The link again to Compassionate Connection Deepens Resilience. May you find shelter in the people who know your song and sing it back to you in these difficult times.

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