Rika Cossey

water lily, flower, bloom

Learning resilience through flowing water

Stages of development 

Resilience is … yes, what is resilience actually? 

Let me go back for a moment and tell you a story. 

A few months ago my family and I bought a property which partially consists of cleared forest land.  This forest land is not a pretty sight. I’m not there very often because I don’t like seeing this  seemingly bare land. On that land, there is also a natural pond. 

If you have ever been to a property that has previously been logged, you might be able to imagine what that pond looks like. It’s overgrown, sluggish and definitely not a place you want to sit and read a book on summer days. It’s more the kind of place you avoid. 

And yet, that pond fascinates me because it’s perfectly adapted to its current stage of life. There is  that kind of grass that grows in wetlands and it covers most of the water’s surface. There are bugs  and insects circling around the air. And there is a rather foul smell that tells me that something is  rotting. 

Even though it seems stagnant, it’s full of movement. It changes, adapts not only to the seasons but to the surrounding nature as well. It moves through stages of life and being. Every stage has a  function. 

And that is resilience to me! 

Resilience in nature 

I see resilience in many parts of nature. May it be the pond with its changing composition, the fungi on the tree stumps next to it or an apple tree which produces apples even though its trunk is almost completely hollow. I see resilience in my chickens who forget about their last fox attack and venture through the garden. And I see resilience in my children who hug me even when I’m mad at them.

Sometimes I hear that resilience is the same as just pushing on with life. People tell me what had happened in their lives and they end with: ‘well, there is nothing I can do about it’ and they move on.  While I sometimes admire that attitude, I also see the flipside. These people are also the ones who will come back to me – sometimes weeks, months or even years later – and still wrestle with the same events from the past. It wasn’t all in the past as they had claimed previously. No, it’s more present than ever. 

And that attitude, the kind of just pushing along, is what can get in the way of developing true resilience in us human beings. Because, the difference between us, humans, and (almost) any other form of being on our planet is that we claim to (want to) ‘learn from the past’. However, we can only develop resilience in our world if we can truly forgive – sometimes ourselves, sometimes others, and sometimes we need to forgive the world at large. 

Resilience through flow 

I know that forgiveness is easier said than done. There is no magic formula that can be applied to forgiveness, no mantra to be said, no meditation to be performed. Forgiveness is an act of letting go.  And that looks different for all of us. 

Maybe it helps to think about events in our lives as water. Events come and go in the same way as water changes. Sometimes events stay with us longer and in some instances, we cling onto them longer than needed and they can choke us. However, when viewing events as water, it’s much easier to let events pass rather than to force them to stay. No one can hold on to clean water for a long period of time. Yes, we can build basins or pools but, over time, that water will rot or evaporate and the basin might erode and allow the water to escape. Water will always find its way and it will refuse to stay in a particular form. 

The best way to deal with water is to allow it to flow. 

And the same should be applied to life events. Events and our interpretation of what happened can choke us if we hold onto them. We need to learn to let them flow, flow through us and towards a  different state.

Being able to view events as water which is non-containable and in constant movement, makes it easier to move on. It makes it easier to let go and not be burdened by the past.

And that is why I admire our natural pond. I don’t know what it looked like before the trees were cut down. I can only imagine that it was a place for animals to drink and breed. Today’s covering with swamp grass is yet another form of its existence and it’s a perfectly adapted one at that. For me, that is what resilience is: flowing through stages of life without resistance and judgement.  What has been can’t be changed and the next event is still to come. The pond is in the here and now  – and so am I. 

I originally wrote this post for the Skilled Helpers Collaborative in December 2020. Check out the original post for all the other great contributions.

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