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Spiritual Resilience

Life is often defined in the Bhakti teachings as ‘a struggle for existence’. The daily grind, the showing up, the making it to the end of the week in one piece. Verse 14 in Chapter 2 of the Gita sums it up: “O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”

So how to become resilient and, despite the ups and downs, not give up on our spiritual journey, our search for the self? We are buried deep within our own body, and are easily and regularly distracted, by outer experiences of both joy and misery. If we consider, in our better moments, that this work to excavate the self is the most important work of our whole life - then not giving up is equally important. Enter resilience.

To stay the course and achieve our spiritual goal, resilience experts say you need 5 things:

  1. A Significant Person: This is someone in our life who believes in us, loves us, won’t give up on us, and guides and inspires us. For the path of Bhakti that’s our gurus. Finding teachers that we love to learn from is a blessing. And such teachers will love to see us grow and succeed.

  2. Good People: In Bhakti, that’s called Sanga. It’s making the choice to be around those who value spiritual life. Those who like to bring the conversation around to deeper things, who have learned to see with spiritual curiosity and who love to question, to listen, to learn, and to live in affectionate relationships with others.

  3. Positive thoughts: At the end of the day we meet ourselves, well let’s say we meet our mind. And there we can go down the rabbit hole of hankering or lamentation. Positive thoughts are the guards to keep us from going too far in either direction. No matter what we do or don’t do, we are a part of Krishna, a spark of his splendor, and we draw on that to reflect, forgive, let go, and keep going.

  4. A Plan: I heard someone recently talk about “Recalibrate Monday” - to reset the intention, to pick up where we left off, to begin again. Do not underestimate small next steps - after all life is simply one next step after another. Resilience is picking up the bead bag and starting again with one round. Or the commitment to read a page or listen to a podcast. Make a plan to go somewhere with your inner self everyday. Make it doable and do it early.

  5. Play: Research has shown that laughter, joy, and recreation make us strong. The Bhakti path is called kevala ananda kanda - the path of joy. Life, and spiritual life, need serious attention, but if we don’t make time to smile and experience happiness we will find ourselves growing hard-hearted, bitter, and give it all up. We will seek our joy elsewhere and unwittingly turn our back on that which we, the soul, ultimately wants - our sweet relationship with Krishna, the most playful darling of Vrindavan.

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