Creativity and Resilience

Today I have been reading about resilience—a significant dimension of Emotional Intelligence.  I believe that resilience may even prove to be the most significant component as we continue to study genetics and biology, psychology, social and spiritual factors, and neurobiology.  Resilience is complex and wonderful and worth paying attention to in our daily lives.
Resilience contributes a great deal to our sense of the meaning of life–to what makes life worthwhile.  It is the invisible hand at our back gently pushing us up the steep and difficult pathway.  It uses humor, art, self-talk, and meditation to help us feelthe moments of joy in our lives—and there are many such moments if only we are awake to them. Resilience, actually the resilience of human beings, is also what fuels great organizations that are able to learn from down times or failure or setbacks and move forward to greater success and fulfillment.
One of the many ways we can build resilience is through creativity—our own and that of others. When I was in high school, my favorite teacher of all time, Robert Ruffing, had all of us memorize a sonnet by Shakespeare. We complained about this task at the time and felt it difficult and useless.  To this day (and it has been many years since), I find comfort and hope in the words of that sonnet, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning when anxiety always seems to loom larger.  I have no idea if Mr. Ruffing knew what a gift he was giving us all.  I rather suspect that he did and I am immensely grateful.
And that is why today I will begin memorizing this poem by Wendell Berry.  His creative act will become part of my mind and heart too—words to accompany me as I build resilience and step forth to rejoice in the joy of life even when darkness descends.    I hope it will become a part of you, too.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 

Ten Qualities of Self-Renewing Adults

What does it mean to grow older?  Are you the same person you were twenty years ago?  Would you want to be the same person?  I’ve been reading Frederic Hudson’s The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal.  I like his definition of self-renewal: “staying at our best—body, mind, and spirit—throughout life’s long years, day by day.”  The following list of basic qualities shared by self-renewing adults is excerpted from Hudson’s book.
Ten Qualities of Self-Renewing Adults
1.  They are value driven.  Renewal is not mere responsiveness to change;  it is the repeated revival of the central concerns of their lives within the changing contexts in which they find themselves.
2.  They are connected to the world around them.  Self-renewing people stay connected to the world around them.  They seek out friends . . . they listen and empathize with life everywhere . . . they care and communicate. The world belongs to them and they belong to the world.
3. They require solitude and quiet.  They have private lives that they nurture and love.  They have regularly scheduled times when they withdraw from routines to spend time alone. They honor their inner life and outer boundaries.
4.  They pace themselves.  They schedule episodic breaks from their routine time, such as travel, holidays, vacations, retreats, seminars, theatre, sports activities, sabbaticals.
5.  They have contact with nature.Much of adult life is spent away from natural forces—in buildings and settings that insulate us from powerful renewal readily available to us.  Yet there are few among us who could not spend a half hour each day in some natural environment—to look and smell and listen.
6.  They are creative and playful.  Rather than sitting on the sidelines to watch the world go by, they pursue ways to express themselves.  They like to exercise, explore, and experiment.  They indulge in humor and are able to laugh at themselves.
7. They are adaptive to change.  They look for habits to give up and better ones to begin.  They pay attention to what they are doing, how they are feeling, and whether they should change. They are caringly evaluative about their lives.
8.  They learn from down times.  Like the lives of most people, their lives are sometimes full of funk and disorientation.  They do not live lives without stress, failures, mistakes, loss, and tragedy.  But they know how they lived through down times earlier in their lives, and they feel confident that they can live and learn through the days ahead.
9.  They are always in training.  Self-renewing people never stop learning.  When the world presents a problem they first assume that they can master it through new training.  Learning is an attitude toward facing the unknown. 
10.  They are future-oriented.  They do not dishonor the past or the present, but they focus their lives on the “not yet” and the “what if?” They live conscious lives today, with intentionality for tomorrow.