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When Bending with the Wind Becomes a Full 180-Degree Pivot

When Bending with the Wind Becomes a Full 180-Degree Pivot

At the very moment the order to shelter in place came down in mid-March, Roshi Joan Halifax “hermetically sealed” Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico and “flipped” an in-person chaplaincy training that was scheduled to start in 48 hours to an entirely online format.  60 students now participating in a community of wise teachers and fellow practitioners virtually, almost instantly.

“You have to be nimble,” said Roshi Joan Halifax in her interview with Fleet Maull during his Global Resilience Summit and credits her staff with the “full 180-degree pivot.”

“Nimble-ness” is a key capacity of resilience. Shit happens. Shift needs to happen, too, often more quickly than we expect or are fully prepared for.

Nimble-ness, like any capacity of resilience, develops from experience and practice over time. Some of us are more nimble than others about some things but not other things; there are times in our own lives that we can pivot more nimbly than other times.

Exercise to Cultivate Nimble-ness

Like thinking of one hundred uses for a brick to cultivate creativity, begin to identify ordinary activities where you could do something 5 different ways:

* 5 different ways to wash or dry the dishes

* 5 different ways to ask your partner or child to wash or dry the dishes

* 5 different routes to drive to the grocery store

* 5 different modes of transportation for getting to the grocery store

* 5 different activities you could do when there’s a power failure during the day

* 5 different activities you could do when there’s a power failure at night

* 5 different things you could do to deal with being bitten by a cat (see Pandemic Lessons from a Cat Bite)

* 5 different things you could to do cope with your child falling of their bicycle and quite possibly breaking their arm.

This exercise in cultivating nimble-ness isn’t exactly planning or rehearsing. It’s about cultivating response flexibility in your neural circuitry so that no matter what sudden change you are faced with, your brain automatically begins to discern options.

And there’s nothing magic about the number 5 in a brainstorming exercise like this. 5 is simply an easy number to remember and begins your practice at an initial level where you will experience some success.  Learning to be more nimble, and learning that you can learn.

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