Smita Malhotra, M.D. and writer for the Huffington Post recalls when her aunt found out she had cancer. She continued to go to work, and during long days of chemotherapy, she turned her hospital room into a party where she would share stories with friends, laugh and play cards. Malhotra says that life threw her aunt an arrow, and her aunt caught the arrow, and created her bow. She knew she could not control the fact that the arrow had come to her, but her bow could hold it stable. Instead of defeating her, the arrow ultimately strengthened her.

As a physician, Malhotra has met what she calls many “elegant spirits.” She wonders how do people cultivate strength, and how can we do it for ourselves? She believes resilient people have the following five characteristics in common….

1.  They practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention to your life on purpose. Mindful people monitor the thoughts that come through them. However, instead of reacting to their negative thoughts, they observe them like a storm that is passing through.

The world will continue to change around them. But at the center of this tornado, is their mind, where there is tranquility and calm.

2.  They don’t compare themselves to others. They don’t spend their time feeling sorry for themselves. They realize that every soul has a different journey and therefore it is pointless to compare the path of your life with someone else.

They are their own measuring stick of success.

3.  They understand that after every big setback is an even bigger transformation. I remember in medical school when part of our rotation was to learn how to deliver bad news to patients, I shadowed a physician who informed a young 40-year-old woman that she had stage four breast cancer. Without missing a beat, this woman said, “I know one thing. After every setback is an even bigger transformation.” Resilient people understand this. They see difficulties as stepping stones to a transformation.

4.  They find humor in everything. Laughter, in its very highest form, is a spiritual practice. It connects us to the part of our soul that heals. When we laugh with others, we gain a sense of interconnectedness and belonging.

5.  They do not try to control their lives. They surrender to the flow of the wind. They adjust their sails and ride the next wave of their life. People that have overcome hardships, tremendous obstacles or disease often feel that life goes from black and white in the before to many beautiful colors in the after. They have turned up the volume of beauty in their lives. They practice mindfulness. They stop comparing themselves to others. They find humor in everything.

And they know that they have been transformed.   6/24/14



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