We all are aware of the physical benefits that a yoga practice brings, but it can also be used for much more, particularly when it comes to building resilience.
Most definitions of resilience usually refer to the ability to recover from adversity or to master change.
Sally Kempton, a nationally recognized master meditation and tantric philosophy teacher, says “...there also exists a deep, secret, and subtle kind of resilience that [is] the skill of stepping beyond your edge. This kind of resilience has less to do with survival than with self-transformation. “
Kempton quotes Jungian psychologist and Buddhist meditator Polly Young-Eisenstadt, who believes we become truly resilient when we commit ourselves to dealing with pain—which is inevitable and unavoidable in human life—without getting caught in suffering—the state in which our fear of pain and our desire to avoid it close us off to the possibilities inherent in every situation.
This is where the practice of yoga comes in, particularly the three basic practices that the yogic sage Patanjali grouped together as “kriya yoga,” the yoga of transformative action. These three yogic actions—tapas (intense effort or austerity), svadhyaya (self-study or self-inquiry), and Ishvara pranidhana (surrender to the higher reality)—strike at the very root of suffering.
Here is how Kempton says kriya yoga works:
Tapas literally means “heat”—the inner heat created as we undergo discipline or hardship for the sake of change. When we understand tapas, any hardship can be seen as a purifying fire, removing veils from our awareness. Tapas can result from a physical yoga practice. Meditation and mindfulness practice teach us to sit through boredom, mental restlessness, and emotional upheavals. Another form of tapas is the effort we make to practice kindness and nonviolence and to tell the truth. But during hard times, tapas often means pure endurance—hanging tight when fear, sadness, and frustration threaten to send us into a tailspin.
Svadhyaya is our direct line to the egoless awareness beyond thoughts and emotions. Self-study might take the form of the classic yogic inquiry “Who am I?” or of witness practice, in which we step back from our thoughts and emotions and identify ourselves with the inner witness rather than with the thinker. Svadhyaya is a way of moving beyond limiting beliefs to identify our basic goodness, the unbreakable beauty of our inner heart.
Ishvara pranidhana is usually translated as “surrender or devotion to God,” a practice that is at the core of every spiritual path. But another name for God is “reality”—the life energy that flows through every circumstance and makes things happen the way they do. Much of our suffering comes from the simple refusal to accept that reality. So, moment to moment, Ishvara pranidhana is the choice to open up to what is actually going on inside us and around us. It’s the attitude of deep acceptance that lets us experience the inevitable hardships and disappointments of life without resistance, without constantly wishing that things were different.
Go deeper into Kempton’s analysis here, with lots of interesting examples and great information on how yoga can be used to develop resilience..
At SWC, we continue to explore the topic of resilience. You are invited to join us for the remaining events in our meditation series, where we will explore a different meditation/mindfulness tool in each session. These are a great way to learn about building resilience skills.
We look forward to welcoming you!
With love and light,