‘Being able to begin again is at the heart of resilience’ - Mindfulness expert Gerry Raftery

Gerry Raferty

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Gerry Raferty

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‘Being able to begin again is at the heart of resilience’ - Mindfulness expert Gerry Raftery

Broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, as he approaches his 90th birthday, sees each day as a new beginning

We lived in a world that appeared to be filled with happiness, fun, and having a good time. People worked hard and played hard. We could travel to the ends of the earth for holidays and adventures. The sky was the limit as there seemed to be new opportunities around every corner. Progress and growth were the key words in the economy.

Suddenly it has all come to a full stop. Our movements have been restricted. In the economy, survival has replaced progress and growth. The future is uncertain. We are left with a very basic question - how are we going to survive and work our way through this global, national and personal crisis?

Over the centuries there have been plagues, famines, wars and natural disasters of all kinds. Somehow or other the human spirit survives and comes through. We can do the same. It is in our nature to survive and keep going.

The changes which the coronavirus epidemic have brought into our lives have reminded us that we need to develop a spirit of resilience.

Resilience

So, what is Resilience?

Resilience is our ability to cope with and overcome a crisis in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Resilience is about bouncing back from adversity, re-building our lives, and beginning again.

We are more resilient than we think we are. When you look at your own life, I am sure you could see times of crisis and experiences where you were overwhelmed with suffering and loss. You thought you would never get over it. You couldn’t see any future or any way forward in your life. Yet you pulled yourself together and got on with life. You displayed great resilience.

I have met people who through accidents, illness or even through the actions of others had their lives turned upside down. They found themselves living with a great disability or with the tragic loss of people they loved. Through their resilience they were able to find new meaning and purpose in their lives. Some would even say that they have become better people as a result of the challenges they faced. This is the power of the human spirit, this is resilience.

How can we strengthen our
resilience?

Based on research and on my own thinking I have identified a number of aspects of resilience which you will find helpful.

1. First of all, I think we need to believe that Life has a Purpose and Meaning. For each one this is very personal. We can find purpose in those we love, in a partner, our children, work, a personal project, or through discovering a deep meaning in life through spirituality, art, music or whatever drives us. The philosopher Nietzche wrote, “The one who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” Having a purpose in life is the foundation of our Resilience.

2. Stay Calm. As regular viewers of Dad’s Army we enjoy how Corporal Jones makes a bad situation worse by screaming out “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” While we might experience panic from time to time, we have to return to a calm space within ourselves. We can do this through relaxed breathing, meditation or yoga or prayer. In the calm we can begin to find a way forward.

3. A Spirit of Optimism is also necessary in building resilience. We must be able to believe in a better future, see light at the end of the tunnel, believe that we can and will get through this challenge. When you feel drawn towards negativity or hopelessness move away from these thoughts and look towards the light wherever you can find it. Managing our emotions, especially our negative ones is essential to our Resilience.

4. Resilience requires a sense of Self-Confidence and Trust. We have to believe in ourselves and in those around us. We need to make our own the slogans “Yes, I can!” and “Yes, we can!” We have within us the resources and ability to believe we can overcome the present crisis and move forward.

5. We need to be able to Adapt to Change. Without a doubt the coronavirus has brought enormous changes to our lives already. Many of these changes will continue for a long time. And there will be more unforeseen changes down the line. Whether we like it or not we are going to have to learn to keep adapting to more and more changes going forward. In doing this we will strengthen our resilience.

6. Resilience is about being ready to Begin Again in the face of great difficulty. We are facing what many people call an “existential crisis”, where our very future as individuals, families, communities and nations are under threat. History and our own life experience have taught us that we can and will overcome this crisis. We have within us the resilience we need to survive and to begin again.

Recently the great legend Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh was on radio speaking of how he is managing his way through the conoravirus crisis as he approaches his 90th birthday. He was, as usual full of hope and positivity. He gets up each morning early looking forward to what the day will bring. He sees each day as a new beginning.

He read the poem, Begin, by his fellow Kerryman, Brendan Kenneally. The final lines of the poem give a profound message of hope which can apply to our present situation. Being able to begin again is at the heart of Resilience.

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending

that always seems about to give in

something that will not acknowledge conclusion

insists that we forever begin.

As they say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life!”

Begin again.