Resilience in the Face of Global Disasters

Resilience in the Face of Global Disasters

I teach that resilience is foundational – we strengthen our capacities to meet ANY level of distress or disaster.

That may seem unrealistically optimistic in the face of America’s mid-term elections tomorrow, whatever the aftermath might be.

(The entire Conversations on Practices for Recovering Resilience video series, with experts like Tara Brach, Chris Germer, Ron Siegel and many, many others is now archived on my website, free and easily downloadable and time you wish to view them.)

I also teach that we strengthen our resilience “little and often,” small practices repeated many times.  That can seem woefully inadequate in the face of today’s global challenges like the increase in natural disasters from global climate change, more frequent terrorist attacks on schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, and cultural events, more frequent threats of global financial downturns and recessions.

We need to find our courage, strengthen our resilience, and deepen our determination:…

Fall down seven times; rise up eight

– Japanese proverb

…to expand the horizons of our attention from our personal self and those we love to the larger community, our shared humanity, for all creatures we share the planet with, for the planet itself.

That’s not pie-in-the-sky or out of reach….

All the world is full of suffering.  It is also full of overcoming.

– Helen Keller

…is not a cliché.  It’s resilience.

I share with you a poem I first heard at the vigil held at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in the aftermath of 9/11:

There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken,

A shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.

There is sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy,

And a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space too vast for words

Through which we pass with each loss,

Out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound

Whose serrated edges cut the heart as we break open

To the place inside which is unbreakable and whole,

While learning to sing.

– Rashani

And a quote shared by my friend Bonnie Jonsson in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue shootings last week:

I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair with a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere.

-Leonard Cohen

Little and often, step by step, we reach out to others, find our courage (sometimes our defiance), come out of discouragement and hopelessness, re-group and persevere.

As I resume posting weekly resources for recovering resilience, this week I share links with resources encouraging and helpful in tackling the big picture.

For encouragement and practical guidance on meeting political divisiveness and extremism head on:

Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together by Van Jones, a brilliant and humanitarian commentator (CNN) on facing the mess we’re in. This New York Times bestseller exposes hypocrisy on both sides of the political divide and points a way out of the tribalism that is tearing America apart.

For realistic solutions to climate change:

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken.

100 substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world

To help witnesses and survivors of mass shootings, a direct pass-through from my colleague Marilynne Chophel: resources developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. These resources were compiled to help families and communities affected by the recent shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Resources in Response to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

· Talking to Children about Hate Crimes and Anti-Semitism

· The Psychological Impact of the Recent Shooting

· Tips for Parents on Media Coverage

· Parent Guidelines for Helping Youth after the Recent Shooting

· Helping Young Children with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers

· Helping School-Age Children with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers

· Helping Teens with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers

· Helping Youth After Community Trauma: Tips for Educators

· After a Crisis: Helping Young Children Heal

· Guiding Adults in Talking to Children About Death and Attending Services


The NCTSN also has resources on Psychological First Aid (PFA). PFA is an early intervention to support children, adolescents, adults, and families impacted by these types of events. Many of our materials have been translated into numerous languages, including Spanish. An online training course for PFA is available on our NCTSN Learning Center, as well as a Childhood Traumatic Grief Speaker Series. PFA Mobile is an app that can be accessed for free for Apple mobile devices.


Available from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University:

· Funerals and Memorials: a Part of Recovery

· Grief Leadership: Leadership in the Wake of Tragedy

· Leadership Communication: Anticipating and Responding to Stressful Events

Whatever issues you decide to address, with however much focus and energy you have, remember, as the Brits did when London was being bombed in World War II:


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