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  • Writer's pictureBarry Shirley

MUMBO JUMBO NEWS (Dare to Know) - ISSUE 12 (NOVEMBER 2020)

Hi Guys. In this November 2020 blog (Issue12). I would like to contemplate the subject of resilience.

As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views and opinions of past and current masters, sages, mystics, gurus, philosophers and generally wise people. I also tap into all the worldly belief systems, religions and philosophies to draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom. These blog posts are designed to only give you a taste of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there.

What is resilience? It is said to be the reservoir of strength that people can call upon in difficult or bad times. Some people are more able to deal with these problems head on and sometimes appear stronger. Others don’t and there may be some obvious reasons why they don’t deal with the problems so well.

We all have to deal with setbacks in life. For instance, the pandemic has upended our lives and change is the new normal, but we have also seen fantastic stories of humanity and kindness (people focussing on what is changeable?). We have already adapted to various restrictions on our lives (some overnight) but we may well be through the worst of this and generally, we have survived (although still recognising the resultant impact on the very vulnerable), drawing heavily on community.

There is so much to worry about – that is also part of the problem – what with contemplating a pre–Gilead society in a large Western democracy (‘A Handmaid’s Tale reference’) to the possible death of our oceans and the poisoning of our atmosphere!

From all the available wise material out there, it appears that the way you look at things (especially when they go wrong) is key to how you bounce back. It is essential to have the right mindset and a lot of it is about letting go of stuff that is inherently unchangeable and accepting the reality.

The main part of all this is the eternal battle with the ego and the stuff that it throws up (see my previous post on the ego). As spring is still with us, maybe this is a good time to do some headspace spring-cleaning?

The Bhagavad Gita (ancient Sanskrit Hindu teaching 3 to 5 thousand years old) indicates that ‘Resilience comes when we accept what is unchangeable and accept all that is the present moment – 18.33 to 35). This is a translation and an interpretation, whereby a person who dwells too much on fearing, grieving, and despairing about an uncertain future will experience more distress and may be slower to recover from setbacks. The verses declare such negative, self-defeating thought patterns as characteristic of the destructive mode of ignorance (of the higher values of life).

The Gita has many examples of how we can achieve a balance in the art of living. Generally, most people seek rewards in the physical plane, but the true rewards transcend the human plane and rise to the spiritual one.

In Eckhart Tolle’s wonderful book, A New Earth, he recounts a story about the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti. At a particular talk he gave he surprised the audience by asking if they wished to know his secret. He then advised them; “This is my secret; I don’t mind what happens”.

It meant that he is in alignment with the present moment (which is all you have anyway) whatever happens and has inner non-resistance to what happens (i.e. let it be). Eckhart Tolle also indicated that how you react to people and situations, especially when challenges arise, is the best indicator of how deeply you know yourself (i.e., to be resilient you need self-awareness).

The late Us Senator John McCain was a man who stood for resilience, which came to the fore when he was serving in the US armed forces in Vietnam, as a US Navy flyer at the time of the Vietnam War. He was subsequently shot down, captured and tortured at the hands of his captors, spending five and a half years as a prisoner before returning home and beginning a more than 30-year career in politics. What made him special was his courage and resilience in the face of hardship and his strong mindset throughout his public service, despite personal or political consequences. He is reported as having made these 5 lessons for achieving a resilient balanced life:

  • Lesson 1: Everyone makes mistakes; successful people learn from them.

  • Lessen 2: Democracy thrives on collaboration and flexible thinking.

  • Lesson 3: Believing in the youth can change the world.

  • Lesson 4: Academic achievement does not equal life success.

  • Lesson 5: Relationships are the heart of a thriving nation.

With a very similar experience, US Navy Pilot James Stockdale was also shot down over Vietnam in 1965. He endured seven and a half years in captivity and was severely tortured. He organised a system of discipline and coded communication for his fellow POWs.

He indicated that to endure hardship, you had to do two things:

  • Maintain a clear focus on your harsh reality, no matter how awful. It does you no good to sugar-coat the facts. It does you no good to fantasize about what might be. Resilient people don’t lie to themselves. They face facts squarely.

  • The paradox, however, is that at the very same time, you have to find a way to hold on to hope.

So how do you do both at the same time?

Throughout his ordeal, Stockdale maintained that he held more power over his suffering than his captors: his ordeal would only become evil if he let it. “I never lost faith in the end of the story,” he said, “that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

When things get hard, you can always ask yourself, “What can I take responsibility for?”

Stockdale believed, this was the true power available to anyone who is willing to say, even when life was tough and unfair, I’m responsible. Do that, and you’ll begin to build resilience in all that you do. (commentary taken from opinion piece by Eric Greitens - Observer Media New York).

Resilient is the 5th track from Katy Perry’s 5th Studio Album ‘Smile’. Katy Perry is an American singer songwriter. As we know, resilient means being able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens. Katy indicated that she went through some hard, dark times in previous years, and the lyrics are said to reflect how she now knows that she is strong and that she can overcome bad experiences. She wrote the following lyrics to reflect this: -

“I know there’s gotta be rain if I want the rainbows;

And I know the higher I climb, the harder the wind blows:

Yeah, I’ve gone to sleep night after night punching a pillow;

But do you know the darker the night, the brighter the stars glow?

[Chorus] Cause I am resilient;

A full flower moment;

Won’t let the concrete hold me back, oh no

I am resilient;

Born to be brilliant;

You’ll see me grow right through the cracks, yeah

‘Cause you’re gonna watch this flower grow

Right through the cracks.”

Cornell University in New York has a useful guidance section on resilience on their website for new students (follow link);

That guidance indicates that resilience has multi-dimensional aspects (see studies by Paul and Lillian Wong of the Meaning-Centred Counselling Institute as

follows: -

  • Cognitive: How events are interpreted (cognitive style, appraisal, attribution) and how daily stressors and life circumstances are negotiated (coping).

  • Behavioural: Habits of persistence and endurance in face of obstacles and failures (behavioural practice and reinforcement).

  • Motivational: Clear sense of life purpose and commitment (will to live).

  • Existential/spiritual: Sense of larger purpose and meaning of human life (meaning and life purpose).

  • Relational: Sense of social connectedness, engagement and altruism.

  • Emotional: Ability to tolerate negative emotions and rejection and to maintain emotional confidence and hopefulness (emotion regulation, emotional intelligence).

The following is also a useful diagram in understanding resilience.


  • “Those who flow as life flows know… they need no other force” (Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher - 6th to 4th century BCE).

  • “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”  E. E. Cummings (1894-1962), poet, essayist, and playwright.

  • “The last of human freedoms is one’s ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

  • “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius, Ancient philosopher.

  • “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” Japanese Proverb.

  • Resilient children tend to have parents who are concerned with their children’s education, who participate in that education, who direct their children’s everyday task, and who are aware of their children’s interests and goals.” Linda F. Winfield, author of Developing Resilience in Urban Youth.

  • “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, lecturer, and poet.

  • “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller Helen Keller (1880-1969), deaf-blind author and political activist.

  • “Our resilience increases as we recognize the magnitude of what we have already accomplished.” Patricia O’Gorman, author of Dancing Backwards in High Heels: How Women Master the Art of Resilience.


  • Relax – see the big picture – focus on what you can control.

  • Make a difference where you can – accept your own power – refuse to be a victim.

  • Everything is possible – nothing is unsurmountable.

  • As always, you are stronger than you think.

  • Seek support from people you trust.

  • Never give up!

  • Try meditation, try yoga.

And, remember; the sky is always blue above the clouds!

Compiled by Baz Shirley. Contact:

*See also:

Instagram: @ bazabstractart

Facebook: Barry Shirley

And all my previous posts on:

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