On Monday, June 17th I was joined by Linda Graham, for a dialog entitled “Resilient Consciousness in Turbulent Times”. Linda is author of the new book, Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being. Think of her as a gifted artist whose artform is simple practices designed to actually rewire the brain. She also offers an extremely user-friendly understanding of how it all works.
Linda’s work draws upon the latest discoveries of neuroscience to teach us how to live effectively and peacefully in our daily lives. Linda says the title of the book Bouncing Back means that we can rebound from adversity, back to our center. We can learn to operate from the sense of “home” that we may have lost as a result of trauma by using skillful means based on new insights into how the brain works. Even though we can’t go back and undo the original traumatic experience, we can change our relationship to it, developing resilience—and that can also serve us in the future. Linda defines “resilience” as the inner capacity to meet the flow of external events, whether they are good news or bad news. So in a sense our past trauma, by forcing us to learn new coping skills, creates a gateway to understanding our brain and developing new capacities for well-being.
Linda summarizes her resilience work in what she calls the 6 C’s of coping: calm, compassion, clarity, connections to resources, competence, and courage. During our dialog, she offered some powerful, simple exercises for strengthening these capabilities. I’ll summarize just one of them here:
To cultivate courage, Linda suggests we do one scary thing a day. This trains us to get across the fear threshold of the brain when we are faced with something new. Small is beautiful here; the “scary thing” doesn’t have to require a big effort. This practice only needs to be persistent and consistent. Though we may start with something small, that will build our capacity to live beyond our fears in bigger and bigger ways.
I asked Linda about the paradox of remaining equanimous without sliding into denial or disconnection. After all, I don’t want to be peacefully rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic while we are going down.
Linda admitted that while most of her book focuses on personal development and resilience, the last chapter talks about moving on to social change. She sees resilience as the platform for compassion, perspective-taking, collaboration, tolerance and diversity—the very qualities we most need to engage with the world in a wise way. And even though past trauma and our biological sensitivities and predispositions are not our ‘fault’, once we gain this awareness and know how to create change in the brain, it becomes our responsibility to manage them intelligently. From “neurons to neighborhoods”, rewiring the brain for resilience and well-being impacts everyone and everything around me.
I invite you to listen to the full dialog here.