The subject of Resilience, I believe is one of the most relevant qualities that we can develop, nurture and sustain. It is a quality that we too often ignore in this fast paced, technological whiz of a life. In the next few blogs and articles, I will be addressing various ways that you can think about resilience and apply it to your life both personally and professionally.
My brother, Patrick, recently sent me an article titled: “Carrots, Eggs & Coffee”. I’ll reprint excerpts of the article here and then expound on the lessons and messages it conveys:
“A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’
‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied. Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, mother?’ Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. ‘Which are you?’ she asked her daughter. ‘When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?’–Author Unknown
The interesting dynamic in adversity is that some people are like carrots and appear strong externally, but when they experience loss or difficulty, they wilt and lose their strength and resiliency. Others, who appear fragile like an egg, become hardened and defensive and armor their vulnerability. Some rare individuals are able to create something lucid, new and extraordinary from pain and hardship. Alice Summers, the oldest living holocaust survivor at 108, is such an individual. She was a well-known musician in Poland when World War II broke out. The Nazis arrested her and her five-year-old son and sent them to a concentration camp but allowed her to play piano for the SS because they were afraid of the propaganda that her death might create for them. She and her son survived on the “food” of her music and not only did they live through the horrific conditions, but both Alice and her son became world-class musicians after the war. Her interview on YouTube is nothing short of inspirational.
This ability to turn adversity into “coffee beans” is what the ancients have always labeled as alchemy. It is the stuff that creates resiliency and greatness on every level. Unfortunately with the apparent ease of technology, we are under the illusion that everything can be handled with the flick of a finger. Children growing up today are given a false sense of security and so many New Age philosophies propagate the illusion that life “should” be easy. It is not our desires for joy, ease, beauty and fun that we must curtail, but rather how and where we look for them.
Fostering resiliency allows us to strengthen our core so that when circumstances appear out of our control or blind side us we are not only able to survive, but in the process we transform ourselves and life itself. We learn in very personal ways that our state of joy, ease, strength and love is not dependent on things external to us. We may still seek certain external forms, but our resiliency is not grounded in them.
Contemplate this analogy of “carrots, egg and coffee” and just notice without judging yourself what your level of resiliency is when things are going “wrong” in your life. For some of us it’s the little annoyances that we’re less resilient to and for some it’s the “big” ones. I teach in all of my seminars that awareness and understanding are the first two steps in taking action and making changes. For the next couple of weeks, observe your reactions to life and notice what fosters your resilience. In the next article, we’ll explore techniques to increase resiliency and the ability to thrive in all circumstances. Please feel free to comment on this article and email me your questions and experiences.
Dancing on the spiraling path of resiliency,