Resilience When Life Becomes a Bumpy Road
In this conversation with Sylvia Boorstein, we learned to apply the practice of “may I meet this moment fully; may I meet it as a friend” to moments both mundane and profound, when we’re in pain, or disappointed, or feeling like we’re making a mess of things. Here’s an exercise from Resilience to apply that practice to moments when we can’t control the outcome, but we can bring our full intention to use those moments to practice resilience.
Exercise: Letting Go of Control – Hanging On to Your Intentions
This exercise is an application of “May I meet this moment fully; may I meet it as a friend.” Engaging with and responding to whatever is happening as an opportunity to remain open to learning, flexible, and skillful. We strengthen our intention to be resilient, even if we can’t control the outcome.
Letting go of control doesn’t mean letting go of the capacity to think, choose, and act: it means letting go of trying to control the outcome. Life is bigger than we are, and we can’t always see or understand the larger forces at play. Letting go of control is about finding the courage to persevere, to be as resilient as you can be, moment by moment, when you don’t have control of what’s going to happen next.
This exercise uses the practice of inclining the mind, using the intentional phrasing May I without adding the pressure or expectation of I will or I must. May I might seem overly gentle, inadequate for facing a challenge or crisis. But researchers have found that intentions phrased with May I, giving permission but not compelling, are more effective in motivating people to persevere.
1. Identify a challenging situation in your life right now where you can’t control the outcome, though you can hope to influence it and to manage your reactions to it. Here are some examples:
Your insurance company has denied your claim in an auto accident.
Your father was just diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The company where you have worked for seven years was just acquired in a hostile takeover, and your future there is uncertain.
2. Identify your intentions for coping with this situation, including your intentions to influence it and to manage your reactions to it.
May I quickly find someone in the insurance company open to hearing my side of things; may I remember to breathe and stay grounded in my body when I talk with them.
May I help my father find the resources he needs to cope with his treatment; may I be compassionate and caring toward my father and toward myself in the coming months.
May I quickly find out how my job will be affected; may I be aware of, accept, and manage my own reactivity (including anger, fear, or shame).
3. Bring your intentions to mind first thing every morning for the next week. As you move through your day, notice whether you are acting on your intentions. (“May I act on my intentions” may become another intention; “May I have compassion for myself when I forget” may be another.)
4. As the situation evolves, reset or revise your intentions as you need to. Little and often is fine here. The perseverance is strengthening your resilience.
Setting an intention, and then noticing yourself carrying out that intention, deepens your trust in yourself and in life, even in the darkest of times. You are meeting the moment fully; you are even meeting it as a friend, as a cue to practice resilience.