Resilience as Resistance
“It’s hard “, said my Palestinian friend, who was travelling from Gaza on a temporary visa to attend a week-long training course in The Netherlands, “to have to leave your country, your family, your culture”. She was referring not to herself but to the huddled Syrian family we saw at the railway station in a small Dutch village along the journey. I was a little surprised. For me, the impression of Gaza is of a broken and broken-down place. A forgotten place, relentlessly hopeless, a place that anyone would want to escape from. My friend’s sympathy for those displaced Syrians was heartfelt. They were not as fortunate as herself. Despite everything, Gaza is her home, where her family live and where she works in a family resource centre.
As I got to know her better over the week, the more of an inspiration she became. “My faith teaches me to honour and respect every person. We share a common humanity. You cannot hate anyone. God has given me so much -my children, my country, my family. I must serve them. I am proud to do that as well as I can. No one can take away who I am in my heart”.
Reflecting on her words some weeks later, I see that it is her inner resilience that sustains her through great difficulty and hardship. And more – it is even a peaceful way to resist the powerful forces that dictate much of her everyday life. Her power lies in her values, her sense of service and her deep belief that love is the strongest force. Resilience as a form of resistance. It’s a new insight for me. And a humbling one.
There are many definitions and programmes that touch on resilience and how to cultivate it. Developing a mindfulness practice is one way. Through this practice, we become more aware of our thought and behaviour patterns. We begin to recognise that these may stem from our often- unconscious attitudes and belief systems. With greater awareness, we can decide which ones best serve us to live more fully, more compassionately. We have more choice about how we are in the world. When we exercise more considered choices, we become more resilient, less buffeted by what happens outside and, indeed, inside of ourselves.
Another way to begin to cultivate resilience is to pay attention to someone who embodies it and use them as our model. Thank you, my friend. And thank you to my mindfulness teachers over the years.
Mary Jennings is a Mindfulness Teacher and will be facilitating an 8-week MBSR starting on the 5th September.