May 13, 2014

How to learn the Dance of Resilience. ~ Laurel Schut

lotus flower

Every time we step onto our yoga mats, our meditation cushions, our quiet spaces, we’re learning and practicing the steps to the most beautiful dance.

Let me explain.

All life forms are balancing in a great dance, between two extremes that inevitably arrive at a balancing point, a tipping point.

A balance of giving and receiving, pushing and pulling, yin and yang, growth and decay.

Wondrously, the balancing point is never static—what worked yesterday, will likely, not work today, and what works today, will likely, have shifted by tomorrow.

The capacity to dance on and continue to find this shifting point is called resilience.

Resilience is a term used in several disciplines (psychology, engineering) but I am most familiar with its use in the study of ecology, in which we define it as,

“the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly.”

In other words, resilience is Mother Nature’s most beautiful dance, her most graceful waltz.

For example, when an ecosystem endures some sort of disturbance, a new balancing point is found and in a silver lining sort of way—new growth and species populations often emerge.

In the same way that ecological resilience offers a beautiful dance, for those with a patient and detailed eye, yoga is a practice of cultivating resilience on a microcosmic scale.

I cannot speak for all yogis, but I most certainly encounter perturbation or disturbance almost every time I arrive on my mat, the reasons varying, depending on the day.

Sometimes, my body doesn’t want to or isn’t ready for a challenging pose. Or, I’m tired and just want to lay around, yet here I am on my third Sun Salutation.

Or, I’ve just settled into a shape and am already feeling fidgety.

The list goes on. (Happily, not all these perturbations greet me every time I practice.)

Yet, as with ecological resilience, there is a balancing point—and I don’t mean literally, although the practice of yoga does require some physical balance, to be sure.

There is a balancing point of the mind, between extremes, that requires effort and attention. For when I am perturbed, for whatever reason in my practice, I choose my reaction.

I can choose to push myself harder, or soften and realize that tomorrow is another day.

I can choose to give weight to my judgmental thoughts, or realize that my internal dialogue is a story that would benefit from a sharp intermission and rewriting of the acts to come.

And, every time I can catch myself in the balance, on my mat—my little microcosm.

I am practicing the act of resilience, and it starts to become how I act.

In this way, the practice of yoga starts to quickly extend its reach far past the four edges of the mat.

In the face of life’s disturbances and challenges, we suddenly feel a little more prepared—we’ve practiced for this!

We’ve learned the steps for this dance, and we know we can choose our reactions. And we know, sometimes it’s a reasonable and justified reaction, and sometimes it’s not.

But it’s called practice for a reason.


Keep dancing, my friends.


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Editorial Apprentice: Ashleigh Hitchcock / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Courtesy of Author

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Laurel Schut