Tag Archives: resilience

Difference is the essence of humanity

by Jill Schroder

“Difference is the essence of humanity”.

This quote from John Hume seems to me an appropriate thing to remember on International Women’s Day. Hume carries on, “Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein likes a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

What a soothing balm this message offers in the face of the xenophobic, misogynistic, hate and judgement-filled atmosphere of the current political arena. Difference is the essence of humanity. I feel my heart open and grow soft, as I reflect on the Syrian family we took into our home just over a year ago, on how they knew absolutely no English, but in a year have learned the language, and gained training and skills and are now contributing to the community and country. Difference and diversity go together like, what? Peace and good government?

John Kennedy writes, “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.“

Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, in 1800: “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” Ah, if only!

I like this one from Audre Lorde: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

My husband has recently been enjoying a kaleidoscope as a toy, joy, and metaphor. I look through the viewer and see the multicoloured pieces. On the one hand they are distinct and separate, but they blend together, overlap, criss-cross, to create a truly beautiful, unique and unified image… When I turn the kaleidoscope ever so slightly there is a whole new arrangement of separate pieces, joining to make a remarkable, colourful whole. Cool metaphor for life, for diversity, for difference: the essence of humanity, eh?

As I go out about my day today, International Women’s Day, I will take this in my heart, the warmth, the unexpected challenges, the pleasures and opportunities for growth and connection that come when I respect and celebrate difference as the essence of humanity. I notice how different it is when I intentionally take this view, how differently I see people, how it affects my heart and my mind, what I see, and how I feel – on the bus, the sidewalk, in my building.

Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Know it and love it!

 

Climate change and emotional resilience: seeking clarity

by Stan Hirst

Resilience has become the buzzword of the 21st century, and its rapid rise to prominence in the media has taken some of us by surprise.  It’s a common enough term in the English language, but it has been applied to a wide number of subjects and themes, possibly not always with the same exact meaning. It is used in physics, ecology, engineering, urban development, military science, psychology and a few other areas, possibly not always with the exact same nuancing or intentions.

Now we have a more recent usage, one which is being promoted by our own Suzuki Elders in relation to global climate change – emotional resilience.  The Elders have defined emotional resilience as “keeping the ability, both personal and communal, to deal with the psychological and social trauma that comes from seeming to lose ground“.

Elder vanity discourages me from admitting I’m not clear on what this actually means, but I’m reasonably sure that I have allies within the Elder ranks when I say that we need some discussion on the concept. This post is my humble attempt at unpicking the concept.

Since I’m old and wise (that’s the definition of an Elder!) a first traditional step might be to turn to a dictionary definition of resilience.  It states resilience to be  “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness“.  Alternately it is said to be “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity“.  That gives us a glimmer of meaning but precious little understanding of the relevance to emotions.

In my own discipline  – ecology – the concept of resilience has been under progressive study for nearly a half-century. Ecologists accept the definition of ecological resilience to be “the capacity of ecosystems to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly“.  Note that ecological resilience typically refers to an entire community or ecosystem.

A common example given for ecological resilience is a mature coniferous forest with stands of several tree species plus understory layers of shrubs, grasses and herbs, the forest occupied by populations of mammals, birds and herptiles. The forest persists for decades in a more or less “stable” state.  Inevitably along comes a forest fire or a major storm or a pest outbreak which destroys huge proportions of  the tree cover, disrupts the shrub and herbaceous layers, exposes the soils to desiccation, erosion and run-off, and kills off a significant portion of the faunal populations. The forest as we knew it is essentially either destroyed or severely disrupted.  However, many of the basic ecological functions such as plant succession, photosynthesis, water retention, energy flow and reproduction remain intact. If left to its own devices the forest will, over decades, regenerate and regain its community structure and functions. Wildlife populations will return.  The whole system might not become be an exact replica of what it was, but we’ll likely accept whatever can be retrieved.

Human sciences have taken on the concept. The American Psychological Association (APA) describes resilience in regard to the individual as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, and other significant sources of stress”. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.  A similar concept is applied to whole communities, towns, cities, agricultural systems, etc. by planners, sociologists and engineers.

The APA points out that resilience in people is ‘ordinary’, not ‘extraordinary’. People have commonly demonstrated resilience, an oft-cited example being the individual and social responses to the 11 September  2001 terrorist attacks in the USA.  Resilience does not mean the non-experience of difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common sequels to major adversity or trauma.  The road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Psychological studies show that the primary factor in [emotional] resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.  Specific factors that have been linked to resilience include:

  • capacity to make realistic plans and to take steps to carry them out;
  • a positive view of self and confidence in personal strengths and abilities;
  • skills in communication and problem solving; and
  • capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.

The science of psychology has laid out some clear strategies for building personal resilience. Developing resilience is seen as a personal journey. An approach to building resilience that works for one person might not necessarily work for others. Various strategies need to be invoked. However, as spelled out by the APA, there seem to be common procedures that work for many:

  •    Make connections.
  •    Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
  •    Accept that change is a part of living.
  •    Move toward your goals.
  •    Take decisive actions.
  •    Look for opportunities for self-discovery.
  •    Nurture a positive view of yourself.
  •    Keep things in perspective.
  •    Maintain a hopeful outlook.
  •    Take care of yourself.

I can see how this all links in to emotional resilience in individuals and in communities, but it remains unclear to me it links to climate change, either globally or regionally.

We need to remind ourselves that climate change is not the same as a change in the weather, although the two may look the same to an uninformed observer over a short period of time. The difference is that climate change is a change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over an extended period of time (decades, centuries, aeons). Its still going to  rain along the west coast, it will still be cold in Alberta in the winter, and we will still have dry spells in the Interior; its the frequency, timing, onset, duration and/or severity of all these familiar weather patterns that will change.

Will prolonged winter storms, summer droughts and frequent blowdowns affect me emotionally? You bet they will.  What will I do about it?  Shake my fist at the Westridge Terminal across the inlet? Throw tomatoes at D.J. Trump’s smirking face on the TV screen? I’ll do it but I don’t expect much in return. I will need to be emotionally resilient.

Now if I only knew what that actually meant.

 

 

How do we build resilience to the impacts of climate change?

by Don Marshall

In a more optimistic time we were convinced that, as environmentalists, we could in time help to bring about sustainability and change the planet’s current trajectory of environmental deterioration. So we did what we could to bring about change in our personal perspective, in our habits, and in our institutions and social systems. We worked to help others see the need for the changes.

We think we made some difference, but it has been hardly enough. From many sources we know and feel that we are losing ground in the effort to preserve our environment. The natural world is suffering. The situation at times seems to be getting worse, not better. Our environment has deteriorated to the point that we now need to consider how to adapt to changes that are inevitable.

This is not just a physical problem of the environment. Its also a psychological and emotional crisis within ourselves. How can we hold our centre and keep our commitment to doing what we can to save the planet? How can we keep hope alive? We feel we need to develop resilience. What we mean by resilience is keeping the ability, both personal and communal, to deal with the psychological and social trauma that comes from seeming to lose ground.

In order to keep working as environmentalists we must take care of ourselves and of each other. Resilience, we believe, is best learned and practiced in the setting of the community where we can connect with each other in empathic conversation. We need to ask ourselves sensitive questions about these pressing issues. We need to engage within our own circles. Power to continue on in our environmental quest will come from deeply listening to each other—listening to our fears, hopes, and dreams.

As Suzuki Elders we are working towards bringing Small Group Listening Conversations to various venues in the Greater Vancouver area. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Basic Decent Goodness

by Jill Schroder

Remembering “basic decent goodness” is turning out to be a big help for me in my ongoing struggle with the turmoil, both inside myself and that which I perceive in the world. Sound convoluted? Only sort of! Here’s a compendium of short notes in support of this approach.

Pablo Casals puts it this way: “Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he/she listens to it and acts son it, he/she is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: “We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk.” It’s a whole lot easier to talk with each other if we assume that everyone has some positive values and motivations, even if they are very different from ours.

The Suzuki Elders are planning a forum for all generations, especially elders and youth, along these very lines – exploring how we can find areas of common ground, finding ways to say YES, even when there are significant disagreements.

Matthieu Ricard wrote a book called Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World. Mike and I have been moved to tears by some of the anecdotes and information. Ricard talks about the “banality of goodness”; he writes “We have to recognize that if we look at the vast majority of the behaviour of 7 billion human beings most of the time … we behave in benevolent, decent, kind, polite and … cooperative ways.”  Just think of how many drivers stop to let a pedestrian cross even when there is no one behind them for blocks — at least in Canada. Just because they want to be kind. There are so many ordinary, indeed banal, examples that come easily to mind. And this is not even counting the ways many of us come forward to offer help when there are real disasters. Basic decent goodness, indeed.

Rick Hanson, meditator, neuropsychologist, author of many books including Just One Thing, suggests in his most recent post that we “choose to love”, basically train ourselves in the art. Start by deliberately bringing warmheartedness to people who are easy to feel loving towards, and move on to adding those who are not. This is a deeply transformative practice, one that would serve us well right now.

A beloved Canadian writer Stuart McLean, who just died, at 68, is recognized this way. Stuart “always emphasized that the world is a good place, full of good people, trying to do their best. He believed in people’s extraordinary capacity for love and generosity. And he had faith in our ability to work together for the common good. He was, in other words, firmly committed to celebrating the positive, joyful and funny side of life. Stuart assured us that even in difficult times, we can find things to be grateful for and ways to laugh.” It would be a fitting memorial to Stuart for us to us to try hard to do just that! Basic decent goodness again.

This approach sets aside the unresolvable question of the existence of Evil and of whether there are inherently evil people. At one level, believing in widespread basic decent goodness is a choice which affects us inside and out. This choice applies and matters, quite emphatically, in the face of despotic, chaotic, or otherwise disastrous regimes, actions or situations.

I’d like to end on a related but different note, one which is on the bright side. Here’s an except from Thirty Thousand Days. I call it Treasure the Pleasures.

“That evening, as I watched the sunset’s pinwheels of apricot and mauve slowly explode into red ribbons, I thought: ‘it probably doesn’t matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, enjoy a nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly. It probably doesn’t matter if, while trying to be modest and eager watchers of life’s many spectacles, we sometimes look clumsy or get dirty or ask stupid questions or reveal our ignorance or say the wrong thing or light up with wonder like the children we all are. It probably doesn’t matter if a passerby sees us dipping a finger into the moist pouches of dozens of lady’s slippers to find out what bugs tend to fall into them, and thinks us a bit eccentric. Or a neighbor, fetching her mail, sees us standing in the cold with our own letters in one hand and a seismically red autumn leaf in the other, its color hitting our sense like a blow from a stun gun, as we stand with a huge grin, too paralyzed by the intricately veined gaudiness of the leaf to move. ”

And finally, treasure the incredible photographs in Brightside.

WOW, eh?

 

Smile! You’ll be glad you did.

by Jill Schroder

I often feel like there is not much to smile about these days. I am doing what I can to manage my emotions, I respond rather than react. I try to hold a compassionate and caring vision rather than slip into fear, anger or helplessness.

I have just received a post from the DailyOm.com that suggests a smile. In my inbox this morning I discovered this: “If you’re having a good time, notify your face!” I smiled, actually laughed out loud, when I read it 🙂

It is well established that when we laugh, or even just smile, a whole range of neurological connections and associations are set loose in our minds and bodies that are nothing but healthy and which have a startling number of benefits. Let the smile sink in. Really feel and enjoy the moment. Savour the flavour! This deepens the good and takes it down to a cellular level.

Another vital piece of information is that we don’t have to have a reason to smile or laugh. Even if we don’t feel cheery we can smile anyway. It can actually become a practice – just smile for the heck of it; just laugh because it occurs to you, the benefits are the same. There is now such a thing as laughing yoga practice, even a laughter university!

One could say we are living in dark times. I have two offerings to help us through at this juncture. One is from my dear brother, a scientist and arealist. When he talks about hope, I like to listen. He says:

Here is my only real rational vision for how this can work out well! In the vernacular its called “unexpected consequences”, but the rigorous (provable) basis is in non-linear dynamics (= “chaos theory”). With complex systems composed of certain types of interactions – as the world certainly is – we know for certain that discrete actions in the present cause consequences that are entirely unpredictable in the future.

Even an action which seems certain to move something one way can surprisingly quickly turn it exactly the opposite way. This we know. This is always a mixed blessing, I hasten to add, since it also means that any of the things that we do that we think are good and will help, may not do so. As we have seen in the last year or two!

The emergence of Donald Trump can be seen as such a path. The response, however, is also hopeful, and is that a good and the only solution to controlling a trajectory in complex nonlinear dynamics is constant correction, and adjustments tend to keep trying to push things in the right direction. One can call it Adaptive Management. We are in one of these moments now, for sure!

The other is something I wrote last year, soon after the election. It was a reminder to myself and others that a lot is going on right now, and a great deal of it is heartwarming, encouraging, and downright thrilling! Another smile 🙂

“Even after the recent election, and in this dark time of our history as a species, this time of exploitation and greed, of great dying out and killing off, of excessive consumption and shameful waste, we can help ourselves and each other to remember the countless and deeply encouraging signs of compassion, sanity and balance — innumerable shifts toward more sustainable ways of being and making our way forward.

May these signs and actions swell to a tidal wave of change for the benefit of all beings, a veritable coming of the light. Let us all be part of this vital coming in any and all ways we can. I take courage and heart from Howard Zinn’s essay, On Getting Along. Bless him and all of those of us working to make the world a better place in ways large and small. ”

In closing, it is important to remember the interconnectedness of everything with everything. Our thoughts, intentions, actions, have a vibrational effect on the whole world. It really matters what we tell ourselves, including our face 🙂

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity. BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.

 

 

Response to the election

by Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham

guest-blog-sealIn light of last night’s election results, Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) has a more important role to play than ever before. We can’t afford to backslide on our hard won victories: the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement, cleaner automobiles. Our work may have just gotten harder, but we are not giving up. There is far too much at stake.

IPL is rooted in theology -answering God’s call to be the stewards of Creation and to love each other. Our focus for 16 years has been protecting the climate while recognizing the injustice and inequality of who and where harm is experienced. We believe that climate change is a critical global challenge and we are committed to meeting that challenge by advocating to limit carbon emissions, energy efficiency and transitioning to a clean energy economy. We believe that fossil fuels belong in the ground. The IPL campaign is not politically motivated, but rather motivated by moral responsibility. Therefore we will continue to work for the things we believe will protect the climate and the future of the planet.

In these times of doubt and confusion, we can draw on the strength of our spiritual traditions and our communities, our ongoing efforts to care for Creation, and on our long history of “bending the arc toward justice.” We encourage you to talk with each other, be with each other, and above all, do not despair. Let any despair quickly turn to positive action. This election was in no way a repudiation of the science and urgency of global warming. It doesn’t change the fact that a majority of Americans, of both major parties and all religions, understand that global warming is happening and that our country should be a leader in building the clean energy economy of the future. Our job is to make sure that the new Congress and new administration understand that people of faith care deeply about being good stewards of Creation. We all breathe the same air. We all want a better world for our children and future generations. We all want to revitalize our communities. The faith community and IPL will have a critical role to play. We will continue to build bridges, and speak to people of all political persuasions from the perspective of shared values. We will act locally, and continue to win local victories. We will find ways to cut pollution and protect the health of our communities, as we always have. The transition to a clean energy economy has begun, and it won’t be stopped by an election. Working together with faith, we will succeed.

 

The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham is President of Interfaith Power & Light, San Francisco, U.S.A., a coalition of Episcopal congregations set up to educate people of faith about the moral and ethical mandate to address global warming.  Further information is available at their website http://www.interfaithpowerandlight.org.

This blog reproduced with permission.

 

 

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