Dimensions of Resilience

I have an older sister, now in her early sixties. Kay had a brain tumor at the age of about five; an experimental operation was performed to save her life and still she was not expected to live to more than a young age. The saving surgery resulted in numerous health complications: she is diabetic, obese, has high blood pressure, is legally blind, is paralyzed on one side and has but partial mobility on the other; and she has had more operations over the years, for this or that…, than even she can count, I am sure.
Kay has taken a couple of falls in the last month or so. On one occasion she landed in her doorway and had to stay there for several hours until someone found her and helped her get up. She is no longer able to get herself up when she falls and is considering a knee surgery… thinking that might help.
I asked her how she was doing the other day, as we visited over the phone. “Oh my body is just falling apart—but I’m doing OK!” she said as she laughed.
This got me to thinking about Dimensions of Resilience; her fragile body has little resilience left in it but her spirit… her spirit is athletic and hardy, to so choose laughter over self-pity in such a circumstance. And it is these dimensions she exhibits, of depth and breadth of Being, that made me reach for yet other possible descriptive words, such as reservoirs or resources… of resilience, in titling this post.
What I’m looking to suggest is that ‘resilience’ is a field phenomena, or a meta-principle, as the Zen Pundit references; i.e. resiliency is not something we posses so much as it is a way in which we stand in relationship to life: Life innately wants to happen! It is Life itself that is resilient. So the question becomes: Where and how do we stand in relationship to this breath-of-life within us—that would of its own accord claim the fullness of its potentiality should we learn to get out of our own way?
Below is an incomplete and broad listing of various dimensions of our own Being-ness that we are constantly in relationship with, and that are thus dimensions of our own resilience. That each of us are more adept and proficient and gifted in some dimensions than in others, reminds me of the work of Howard Gardner around multiple intelligences. While we each may face our own constraining limits in any particular dimension, it is the very challenging of those limits that exercises and further extends our resilience in any particular dimension.
For example, there are the Ecologic Fields we are embedded within that are themselves intelligent, and which we can learn to listen to, to gather biognosis or life-knowledge and wisdom from, or not. Though my sister lives in a relatively contained and artificial environment, she, like other blind people, are a great example of the human potential for development of heightened sensorial sensitivities; she will exclaim with delight at the beauty of a flower that must be held immediately before her eyes.
The Genetic Fields: the inherited DNA… information we arrive into the world with, the personal and species morphogenetic fields (See also Rupert Sheldrake) we ourselves evolve within. The work of cellular biologists, like Bruce Lipton, are demonstrating however that there is a plasticity to our genetic programing that is keenly responsive to our perceptions of ourselves and our environment: i.e. our beliefs.
The Physical Fields: Our own heart rhythms are far more resilient in an aspen forest for example than they are in Sam’s parking lot, where they are likely to have a narrower range of variability. Our own bodies, and our care for them, are but one aspect of this dimensional field.
The Emotional Fields: Kay’s capacity to laugh at herself and her circumstance has certainly contributed to her longevity. (Emotional Intelligence is now acknowledged to be more important to an executive’s success than is IQ.) The willingness and capacity to transform emotion, say anger into compassion, is but one aspect of this dimension.
The Mental Fields: Open minds are a lot more fun than closed ones, and more creative too. While more challenging to maintain, this too becomes a kind of self-reinforcing pattern of being in the world. A curiosity for life itself and exercise of the mind, exposure to new and different environments and thinking…, these are perhaps our best strategy (with a healthy food diet of course) for an agility of mind into our aging years.
The Spiritual Fields: A sense of vision and purpose in life creates more resilient living…. The sense and experience of belonging and of connection, the sense of being of service to life in some fashion… are best purchased through the offering of our own spirits.
The Community Fields: “Community” is a verb. Diversity of presence within natural ecosystems enhances their resilience. We humans might learn much from such intelligent fields.
The Cultural Fields: Western culture is but a neophyte on the planet and its resilience is more than suspect. Supporting the remaining indigenous peoples of the earth in the retaining of their earth based knowledge and wisdom is vital to human thrive-ability.
The Global Fields: Planetary regulatory systems have not only influenced the rise and fall of civilizations… but of businesses and of individuals as well. The era of global/local climatic destabilization we are entering will more than challenge humanity’s resilience; it is about to call us onto the proverbial carpet, so to speak.
Our wild resiliency will be served, as we walk into this future of our co-creation, the more we look to wild nature for patterns of resilience that we might emulate, at both personal and collective levels of our dimensional Beings. We will require the strength of our resilient spirits… that we might thrive physically as well. A hardy humor, one well versed in the capacity to laugh at ourselves, to not take ourselves too seriously, will serve us well as we awaken to the destruction of life our so called progress has cost.
Only a resilience grounded in wellness, hardiness, and wholeness, will carry us through the coming personal and collective grief, with our souls intact.
Thanks Kay, for being my sister and teacher, for the wellness, hardiness, and wholeness of your spirit.
Note: Businesses share each of these dimensions, as collective expressions, with individuals.


  1. Benny

    09/19/2007 at 4:57 pm

    Great article. I am wondering about the spelling of “Breadth” should it be breath? “And it is these dimensions she exhibits, of depth and breadth of Being”

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    10/25/2007 at 6:39 pm

    […] Resiliency Matrix, and Bush’s Shadow I have written here about what I’m calling Dimensions of Resiliency, or Reservoirs of Resilience; the thinking is of resiliency as a field phenomena, and that the […]

  3. Lilli Ruth Rosenberg

    05/15/2008 at 3:39 pm

    This is brilliant! Thanks for the inspiration. Lilli*

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    07/08/2008 at 11:16 pm

    […] for the world I would dream into being. The occasional comment, such as this one in response to the Dimensions of Resilience post, “This is brilliant. Thanks for the inspiration,” help me ‘believe in the […]

  5. Shell

    07/11/2008 at 6:29 am

    I read your article and had to read it again. There is a spirit that flows through your words and touches the reader. I especially resonate with what you wrote about the Spiritual and Mental fields. It is all about our Spirit.
    Thank you,

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