Slow Down for Resilience

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Linda Graham, MFT and author of Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster, shares one exercise from her book for improved resilience and well being.  

On my way to an early morning doctor’s appointment, my car got a flat tire. Drove to the neighborhood tire shop instead. They could replace the tire in an hour, in time for me to begin seeing clients for the rest of the day.  I walked home, walking down a street I had driven almost every day for years, but now seeing things at a completely different pace, from a completely different perspective.

There is the Spanish ambassador’s residence in my neighborhood. Who knew?  There is a home on the National Register of Historic Places; I never knew that. A neighbor has a pomegranate tree in their front yard. I never knew that either.

The delight that there was so much to discover in a few short blocks put all of the grump about the flat tire in perspective.  I have the privilege of being alive in a world full of awe and wonder, if only I take time to notice and expand my horizons.

That shifting of perspectives is at the core of resilience; being able to perceive the same ole same ole from a different angle, to see possibilities and options that were unknown or obscure a moment before, can lead to wise, courageous, and creative action.  

Exercise: Sense and Savor Walk

The Sense and Savor Walk is a kind of walking meditation that uses all of our senses to notice our experience.  We discover things we never saw before or see familiar things from a new perspective. The perception of the new is what helps the mind to see many things in a new way, even troubling and worrisome things.

1.  Find a place or path you can walk on; it could be on a quiet street, in a park, on a trail, or along the beach.  You can walk by yourself; you can walk with a friend or with a group of people.  But silence is also helpful to the brain recovering its baseline equilibrium; less stimulation to process, more restfulness and restoration in the process.

2.  Begin to walk slowly, savoring the input from all five senses:

  • walking in a park, noticing the shape of a leaf or the color of the grass. Noticing the texture of the bark on a tree, noticing the variety of tree shapes; noticing the clouds in the sky or the horizon of nearby buildings.
  • smelling the fresh air, the damp earth, or smelling a neighbor’s barbecue.
  • hearing a bird song, the rustle of the wind, the sound of cars going by or people walking by; hearing the silence;
  • touching a twig or a rock or letting dirt slip through your fingers
  • tasting anything edible if you have brought a snack or drink a cup of tea

3.  Walk even more slowly, breathe more slowly, perhaps pausing to stand still, noticing the changes of light and shadow, movement and stillness around you.  Pause to notice shifts our energy, your mood.

4. Then lift your eyes to the horizon, sweeping across the hills, up to the vastness of the sky. Notice any shifts in your perspective as you shift from a micro to a macro view.

5.  At the end of your walk, take a moment to reflect on your overall experience, especially any shifts in your bodily felt experience, your thoughts about yourself, your thoughts about the world you live in.

See Linda’s latest book, Resilience on Amazon.

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