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Keep Calm and Know Thyself

When you begin practicing mindfulness (consistently, that is) the positive impacts it has on your life can manifest very quickly. Negativities such as anxiety, stress, and depression reduce in intensity. After a few years, you can even say you forget what it feels like to have any of these chronically! Of course, they pop up here and there occasionally, but your capacity to deal with them increases exponentially.


On the other hand, positive characteristics and mindsets begin to take a stronger foothold in your life. Mindfulness practices tend to make you chronically happy and optimistic (sometimes annoyingly so, according to some sources), and this trend naturally reduces your negative outlook.


In practicing mindfulness, you really start seeing how forces are at play within yourself, and you can start a journey toward constant day-to-day improvement of some aspect of your life.

What I'm getting at here is that there is always an interesting relationship, a push and pull, between your negative and positive qualities (that is, thoughts, perspectives, actions, characteristics, etc.). One of the amazing things about practicing mindfulness is that you really start seeing how these forces are at play within yourself, and you can start a journey toward constant day-to-day improvement of some aspect of your life.


I want to talk a little bit about a key characteristic that mindfulness really starts to cultivate: resilience. This is usually defined as "the ability to recover from the effects of adverse conditions" or something along those lines, but for our purposes we define it a little differently. We aren't talking about recovering from a situation, but about having enough resilience to stay centered in a hard situation and to not have to recover in the first place.

Resilience means you can maintain enough inward composure to maintain outward composure.

For example, let's say someone gives you a hard time for some little mistake you made. One possible outcome is that you get upset, insecure, or angrily defend yourself, yet you soon collect yourself, take a deep breath, apologize, and let it go. This is one way to look at resilience, and it's definitely not a small feat to be able to do this. We all have our buttons that get pressed by whoever or whatever. If you can get over that quickly, or even in the situation itself, you already have a gift that many people will never experience.


To make it a little easier for our purposes, we can call this recovery.


But let's take it a step further. The same situation occurs, and inwardly you react with anger, bad thoughts, insecurities, etc. Yet, you have the ability to restrain yourself from letting this come out in a way that makes the situation worse. In other words, you can maintain enough inward composure to maintain outward composure. Now that is resilience. And to clarify, this doesn't mean getting infuriated or depressed, but keeping a straight face. It means inwardly there is a certain grounding you have in your core that doesn't get compromised.

Life will never stop throwing new adversities at you, so you can never stop striving and improving in your resilience.

This characteristic is not something that happens in a day, and not something you're born with. There will be strides and failures, and these are both necessary for true growth. It is a lifelong journey of trying to "know thyself" and perfect thyself, and it will never end. Life will never stop throwing new adversities at you, so you can never stop striving and improving in your resilience. That's why mindfulness is such a practical and essential tool: life never stops happening, so you can never afford to stop preparing and striving to make the most of it at every moment.



So you might say, "Really, this is great. Resilience is obviously good for keeping me centered. But is that really all it can do for me?"


Well what a great question to serve as a springboard for reiterating how awesome mindfulness is!


One of the beautiful things about mindfulness is that it is always bearing new fruits that increase the quality of your life. It's not like you just get to some baseline and maintain it. Well...you do, but that baseline keeps going up and up!


Every new improvement you make causes some kind of new beauty on this journey, whether you unlock a new bonus quality, or K.O. a nasty negative quality. All of this stuff is happening in your heart, in one place, so there is always some connection and impact on the rest of your being.


Anyway the tl;dr answer is: yes, resilience gives you more than you think.


Resilience is like fertile soil where the tree of compassion can slowly grow and bear fruits.

While I'm sure there are many aspects to this, I can mention (from my own experience) at least one quality that I know is improved by resilience: compassion.


Probably not what you expected, but in many ways resilience is like fertile soil where the tree of compassion can slowly grow and bear fruits.

I realized this recently when my wife and I took a trip to Pennsylvania and stayed at a nice Airbnb in Lancaster County (where the original Amish community was established). We arrived in the late afternoon, pretty tired from our second day of driving for 7 hours straight. We were more than ready to crash and enjoy some Amy's Pizzas.


At this point we faced some serious adversities: our phones were dead, our car doesn't charge our phone, we need my phone so I can get the key code for the place, I have to walk around the building looking for an outside outlet to charge my phone with, it's hot, we're tired, you get the idea (I'm being a little sarcastic if you can't tell).


Once we finally got inside, we were treated with some delicious icing on the cake: the place hadn't been cleaned since the last guests had left a few hours before. It wasn't atrocious or anything, but there weren't fresh towels, sheets, etc. so resting and relaxing wasn't really possible quite yet.


Of course we were both a little upset at first. In this situation we had to do some acceptance and dig into our stores of resilience (which had been significantly depleted over the course of the past 48 hours). But our years of practicing mindfulness helped us keep our cool and be understanding.


By the time the host (we'll name her Betty) came we were reconciled and it was obvious that she felt terrible. This had never happened before, and she had a pretty flawless rating to show it. We assured her that it was not a big deal and we'd go putz around the area and get some groceries while she cleaned the place up. She made it sparkling clean, and later in the evening she gave us a gift card and some nice treats for being so understanding.


What really surprised me is that, through being resilient, we could actually be compassionate toward Betty. Maybe she was going through a rough time (you never know what is going on in a person's life). How much pain we could have caused her had we not been resilient? After it all, my wife and I agreed that it was best for this to happen to us rather than someone else (people can get vicious about this kind of stuff). We proceeded to have an awesome time, and hope to stay at the same place again in the future.

You live and you learn. And really if you're not learning, you're not doing much living!

This was one relative success among my many, many, many failures at being resilient. There were definitely improvements we could have made in how we first reacted to the situation, and there are plenty of other things that I'm not as resilient with. For example, we have a cat, Leo, who meows in my face at 3 a.m. while I'm sleeping so I can bring him to his food bowl that already has food in it. I'm still working on that one, but nobody is perfect. You live and you learn. And really if you're not learning, you're not doing much living!

All in all, it is pretty cool how sitting and focusing quietly for five minutes a day can really benefit you as well as others. It reminds me of an Indian proverb that our mentor's mother used to tell him: "Outside you should be adamantine; inside you should be melted butter." When you can be strong, it actually helps you be soft. You can put yourself aside, and see the needs of others.


Truly, changing yourself for the better has a bigger impact on the world than you would think. Practice mindfulness consistently, with Daata Mindfulness or any other technique, and see for yourself what a difference you can make!


As Jalaluddin Rumi, the famous Persian ecstatic poet, said:


"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world; today I am wise, so I am changing myself."
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Mindfulness in Higher Education (MHE)

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