What is Mindful Resilience?
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There is a gap between mindfulness as a concept and mindfulness as an action. It’s one of those paradoxes you hit after about 10 seconds of philosophical thinking. The question is how to bridge that gap—and what can help bring you into the moment. This moment, maybe.
Is it a gong? An air horn? Taking a breath? Maybe it’s no action at all.
Two elements of mindfulness are openness and acceptance. Something enters your mind and you roll with it. Maybe dance with it. Rather than try to control or avoid it, you accept it without judgment. This is often easier said than done because some of these things will make you uncomfortable. What happens in those moments is… Well, it’s a lot of things.
When we are too uncomfortable, we might leave the moment. We might seek comfort elsewhere. Or through an emotional reaction. We might tough our way through by taking our minds elsewhere. These are all forms of distraction and reaction.
We can also stay. I’ve started building some language around this distinction.
Dissociative Toughness is when you stay on course but take your mind elsewhere. You finish the run; you stand still for the dressing-down; you pull over and wait for the cop to approach you. The actions are in place but your mind is on Neptune. It gets the job done—when the job would otherwise be too painful to handle.
Mindful Resilience is when you stay in the moment and meet the discomfort head-on. It’s crawling into the ice bath and seeking out the feeling of cold. It’s noticing sensations of fatigue during a set of squats and being curious about them.
Your capacity for Mindful Resilience will always be less than your capacity for Dissociative Toughness. That’s ok. Sometimes, survival is the only thing. The great limitation to this strategy, though, is the lack of sensitivity and nuance. Through dissociation, we lose our ability to feel—and respond—to signals. We make it through but we don’t adjust our approach. We may ignore signals from our knees or low-backs—or from the people closest to us. We may miss opportunities for important course corrections.
Your ability to stay in the moment longer is a meta-skill because it allows you to bring all that you’ve got in those moments—and then apply it. Presence isn’t just a timeframe; it’s real-time actualization.
How do we develop Mindful Resilience? That’s the million-lifetime question. I believe that it begins with seeking out small moments of discomfort—the kinds we can consistently handle—and using them as reminders that right now is happening. This isn’t epic-scale stuff; it’s not climbing mountains and wrasslin’ gators. It’s the opposite. It’s tiny stuff. It’s humble. The kinds of moments that we find throughout our days. When the internet goes out. When service is bad. When your quads start to burn or you’re struggling to maintain your calm.
I believe that physical training is one of the greatest opportunities to develop Mindful Resilience. The stresses are there but they strengthen you. The environment is safe. You have control. You have support. And you are choosing to do this.
If you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to work out mindfully—and still lift some heavy shit—you can click below.