🌻 Spiritual Resilience
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Vulnerability is frankly not one of my favorite experiences.

There are moments in life that feel like the winds are blowing in the wrong direction and it’s hard to right the sails or grab a safety line. Sometimes I pause to wonder how or why something happened, while at other times I know I need to find a way to right the sails and just keep going.

As a wandering sojourner on the seas of life, I have lots of questions. Here’s one: What’s the connection between resilience and spirituality? As we travel through life’s joys and sorrows, hopes, and fears, strengths and adversities, how do we sustain meaning and our sense of self? And how do we respond as we navigate the challenges in our own lives and in the world around us?

This quest for understanding has been with me much of my life. As a child, I pretended that each blue tile on a wall in our home was a file drawer containing answers to life’s questions. When studying for my doctorate in psychology, my research project centered on resilience, exploring some of the factors that buffer the impact of adverse circumstances (Berns-Zare, 1999). And in life’s tumultuous winds, particularly in young adulthood and beyond, I’ve tried to gain some steadiness by striving to understand life’s big picture, seeking meaning, and becoming present to the interconnections among all of us.

Why even consider resilience and spirituality in the same sentence? I’m not the only one who has pondered this question.

Resilience is about our capacity to adapt, bounce back, or even thrive in the face of challenge, stress, and adversity. And resilience is a common occurrence – each of us suffers adversities in our lives and responds to them in some way. Similarly, spirituality is also a universal human experience. Spirituality can be understood broadly as a quest for meaning, purpose, the sacred, or something larger than ourselves, offering perspective and a higher vista to view our existence (Manning, et al, 2019; Niemiec, Russo-Netzer & Pargament, 2020). Notably, the content of spiritual beliefs, experiences, and practices are as varied as our humanity across this planet.

It seems important to say that spirituality can be secular or non-secular, religious or not about religion at all. According to modern psychology, spirituality is one of 24 character-strengths common to humankind across this planet — across time, cultures, countries, and beliefs (Niemiec et al, 2020; Park, et al, 2006; McGrath, 2017). A multitude of studies show that spirituality contributes to human well-being, relationships, and meaning in life (Niemiec et al, 2020). How and where we experience and express spirituality is as diverse as human experience – from the outdoors, solitude, and mindfulness, to churches, synagogues, mosques, or other organizations and spaces.

Spiritual Resilience - IBZ Coaching

What does spirituality have to do with resilience? Spirituality can help us strengthen ourselves during tough times, and evidence indicates spirituality is an important component of resilience (Brown, 2017).

The term spiritual resilience is a relatively new construct integrating these two universal endeavors in a holistic way. Research shows complex interconnections between resilience and spirituality (Manning, et al, 2020; Smith, 2015; Tuck & Anderson, 2014).

✨ Spiritual resilience involves the capacity to engage our internal resources, including beliefs, strengths, and values, and also recruit external resources to support our sense of self, meaning, and purpose when we’re faced with life’s challenges and adversities.

Our spiritual resilience can help us recharge our hearts, minds, and inner selves. No matter our background, we have beliefs we lean on during stresses and adverse circumstances. Spiritual resilience can help us strengthen our own humanity inside and out – it’s like an invisible set of sails that can help us remain upright or regain a sense of balance in life’s calm and storms.

Spiritual resilience can be an everyday occurrence and at times remarkably transformative, as an internal compass to help us guide ourselves during life’s storms. Our spiritual resilience strengthens heart, mind, and spirit – supporting our capacities to live with greater purpose, connect to others and to something larger than ourselves.

I often close my articles with a related inspiration or practice. Self-compassion can shore up resilience and blends nicely with many spiritual traditions. Vulnerabilities and adversities cannot always be kissed and made better, but self-compassion can strengthen our spiritual resilience. This practice may inspire your spiritual resilience as you face the winds of life.

đź“ť Spiritual Resilience Practice
  1. Invite yourself to pause. Focus on a calming anchor to ground yourself, such as your breath, your hands, a sound in your environment, a picture in the room, or your outdoor view.

  2. Consider a challenge you’re currently facing. As you think of this situation, gently notice your reactions, emotions, and feelings.

  3. Offer yourself kindness, compassion, and words of comfort. If you are able, simply observe your reactions, rather than judging yourself, the other person, or the situation. Remind yourself that you are simply human – part of the wholeness of humanity – vulnerable as all of us are vulnerable.

  4. Try to refrain from self-criticism. Simply self-observing may be enough right now. If you want to you might consider what you could learn from the situation and your reaction to it.

  5. What might you want to further reflect on or what action(s) might you want to take?

An earlier version of this article was published at Psychology Today.

© 2024 Ilene Berns-Zare, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or healthcare professional.

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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CEC, is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at https://ibzcoaching.com/.

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