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I’ve been working with this idea of Resilience after a traumatic event in my family recently. If you were to ask me previously how I would have defined this word, I would have said something about one’s ability to bounce back after a difficult event or one’s degree of emotional toughness.
Yet these definitions omit a very important aspect of Resilience, which is one’s ability to integrate or ‘work with’ a challenge – almost a leaning into it so it becomes a part of you and a new norm.
Coincidentally, I had just watched an incredible film entitled Resilience: Vision for a new America at this year’s Centres Gathering at Omega Institute. We were fortunate enough to watch the documentary with Reverend angel Kyodo williams and Dr. Jasmine Syedullah – who were not only featured in the film, but are two of the three authors of Radical Dharma (shout-out to the third author also, Lama Rod Owens). Sharing this time with Rev. angel and Jasmine and having the opportunity to discuss the film with them afterwards opened up this idea of Resilience even further – what it means in a broader, community context and specifically when it comes to folks who have been marginalized and oppressed by dominant culture for multiple generations.
This is Resilience. When communities survive despite repeated, relentless attempts to uproot a people, to remove power and freedom. When there is a leaning in to this unfair disadvantage, to examine it, deconstruct it, integrate it, and to rise again. It is so much more than bouncing back.
From the words of Rev. angel, and on the topic of ‘struggle’:

You know I’ve released the use of the word struggle.” I said, “I don’t know what the proper term is for it, but linguistically there is no natural end to the word struggle: un-struggle, de-struggle. When do you stop?”

So I think of it as working with something. That’s what Buddhism does. It may sound like a little turn of phrase but it makes a world of difference. So first, I’m working with it. I’m not struggling against it. Struggle feels like—this thing is consuming me. That it’s me against you, one of us is going to win and one is going to lose. I didn’t really care for that experience of incessant unmitigated struggle.

(Quoted from Self-care for Activists: An Interview with angel Kyodo williams)

It’s a beautiful notion that we may be with something, be with a deep sorrow, an unknowable pain that is buried into our bones and the interstitial spaces in our bodies. To not fight against it, not struggle, not run away from, but to work with it. To know it will be there, always, in some form – and it may in fact be the beginnings of our transformative work, when we can move beyond an individual to a collective awakening.
Later this week, I will be spending 5 days with Rev. angel in a Conversation about Radical Dharma (June 24-29, 2018) There is still time to join us if it calls to you. Also, please mark your calendars: we will be screening Resilience: Vision for a New America at Hollyhock on Wed. June 27th, from 8-9:30pm. All are invited.
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