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Resiliency: Spirituality on the Road to Wellness


Resiliency:  the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress; an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Wellnessa healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being; an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.

If wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful way of being in the world, focusing awareness on the choices that enhance our ability to adjust to change can promote our well-being.  Attention to spiritual practices that help develop and enhance the characteristics of resiliency helps us adjust to the changes a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis presents. 

The following table shows the spiritual practices that correlate with the characteristics of resiliency. 

 Characteristics of Resiliency           Correlating Spiritual Practices

Insight                                                 Attention (Mindfulness), 
                                                           Being Present

Curiosity                                             Wonder, Awe

Independence                                     Solitude, Connection

Initiative                                              Enthusiasm, Questing

Humor                                                Joy, Play

Creativity                                            Imagination, Wonder

Adaptability                                        Openness, Vision

To learn more about these spiritual practices, go to  www.spiritualityandpractice.com  which lists spiritual practices from A to Z in the right-hand column. By clicking on a practice such as “attention,” the website moves to a page that describes attention and offers specific tasks such as journaling topics, books, quotes, and art activities that practice “attention.”  Other resources include the following book and DVD's.

Spiritual Rx: Prescriptions for Living a Meaningful Life, by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Spiritual Literacy, a DVD collection of 26 20 minute programs first airing on Canadian Public Broadcasting network. A visual and auditory meditation, each segment expands on a spiritual practice for each letter in the alphabet.   Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Thoughts on Attention and Being Present:

Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the  violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. 

Three minutes went by and a middle-aged man noticed there was musician  playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.  A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.    A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work. 

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother hurried him along, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.   Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other
children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on. 

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while.   About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over,  no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.   

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever  written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.   Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a
 theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100. 

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context? 

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

---e-mail of unknown origin

Spiritual Practices

Journaling with quotes

1. Which of these quotes speaks to you?
2. What words in the quote capture your attention?
3. What emotion rises to your awareness when you read these words?
4. What in your life experience is being tapped that rises in your emotional  response to these words?
5. Write about what becomes clearer for you, i.e. what insight opens from this passage?

On being present:

 "Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today."  
              -  Mother Teresa"

"Those who are Awake live in perpetual amazement."
             - Buddha

"Be still and know that I am God.
 Be still and know that I am.
 Be still and know.
 Be still.
               - Psalms

 On attention: 

"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." 
               - Aristotle

"After reading I do a little yoga and then meditate, simply as an offering of my time and attention to Spirit, an affirmation of my faith in something I find hard to articulate or explain.  This approach helps keep me from falling into the ever-sticky trap of goal-oriented effort.  I also think of what Father Thomas Keating says:  'The chief act of the will is not effort but consent....  To try to accomplish things by force of will is to reinforce the false self....  But as the will goes up the ladder of interior freedom, its activity becomes more and more one of consent to God's coming, to the inflow of grace.'  I like Keating's emphasis not on trying but on receiving, opening, consenting, an opening that is very active in its own way.  He says, 'Trying dilutes the basic disposition of receptivity that is necessary for the growth of contemplative prayer.  Receptivity is not inactivity.  It is real activity but not effort in the ordinary sense of the word....  It is simply an attitude of waiting for the Ultimate Mystery.  You don't know what that is, but as your faith is purified, you don't want to know.'  This 'active inactivity' is an example of what I think of as 'passionate equanimity.'  I still wear the wooden rosary from the Snowmass Monastery on my left wrist and every time it catches on something, which is quite often, I try to pause, gently disengage it, notice the flash of irritation if that happens, and repeat to myself, 'Consent to the Presence of Spirit.'  It creates a moment of stillness, of openness that I like."  from Grace and Grit -- Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killiam Wilber by Ken and Treya Wilber, Shambhala, 1993, pp. 340-1.

 "A man in prison is sent a prayer rug by his friend.  What he had wanted, of course, was a file or a crowbar or a key!  BBut he began using the rug, doing five-times prayer before dawn, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before sleep.  Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weaveof the rug, just at the qibla, the point, where his head touches.  he studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discovering that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him in his cell and how it works.  he's able to escape.  Anything you do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place, which is freedom."  -  Coleman Barks in Spiritual Rx:  Prescriptions for Living a Meaningful Life, ed. by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, 2000.



Look for a quiet place that is free from distractions where you can build a contemplative practice. 

Being Present:  

A birthday candle burns for 7 minutes.  Place one in a cupcake or muffin and watch the flame until the candle burns completely down to the top of the muffin.  This is to help become comfortable with silence and with being present.

Go outside and find a place to sit.  Become aware of how all your five senses experience this place.  What color is the sky?  Where is the sun or the moon?  How does the air feel on your skin?  Is it cool or warm, damp or dry?  Is there a wind blowing?  Which direction?  How does your body experience wind?   What smells do you notice?  What sounds -- animals, birds, humans, rustling grass, motor vehicles?  Are there tastes that you notice as you sit there?  What does whatever you sit upon feel like -- hard or soft, hot or cold? 

Wet water color paper with water then drop a color on the page, observing how the paint travels across the page without trying to influence its path.

Walking Meditation:  With one step, say "I have arrived."  With the next step, say, "I am home."


Buy a small plant and begin to tend it daily, spending several minutes with it and observing its stem, leaves, buds, flowers, etc.  What evidence of growth do you notice?

Find a spider and watch it weave its web.

Take a simple picture, turn it upside down, and try to draw it.

The breath has often been aligned with spirit.  Dr. Dean Ornish explains a simple breath exercise that helps increase attention and helps one to be present.  Go to:
http://www.wilddivine.com/newsletters/heart-breath.html .