By Gurmit Kaur
On January 19th, I ventured outside of my comfort zone and went to the London book launch for “The Resilience Dividend,” a book by Dr. Judith Rodin, the president of The Rockefeller Foundation. For me, it was good to be out of the house and take a break from daily chores.
The book was written in response to the rapid increase in natural and economic disasters facing communities around the world.
In conversation with Geoff Mulgan, the Chief Executive of Nesta, Dr. Rodin mentioned that the world is experiencing a rapid number of changes and upheavals ranging from flooding to the rises in inequalities. In addition to these stresses there are also “slow burning stresses” such as poor air quality and daily stresses. She insited that both businesses and individuals need to develop relief and recovery strategies so we can revitalise quickly. Resilience is not an inherent characteristic, it is a skill to be learned, Dr. Rodin said. We all need to look to develop resilience readiness.
Diversity was a factor that Dr. Rodin mentioned was necessary for communities to develop resilience: for instance having a diverse economy and a diverse workforce. Diversity also needs to be integrated, so information is spread effectively. For example, it is no use having a diverse workforce if no one talks to each other.
Another factor she mentioned was self-regulation, or the ability to fail safely without breaking apart. Political, business, and community leadership can help in providing this type of resilience. Communities need to prepare and determine how it will respond to a crisis. “If you prepare for everything, you can respond to anything,” said Dr. Rodin.
So as a Sikh, what can I do to develop resilience?
Sikhs are taught from an early age the importance of seva and simran. I believe, these two factors play an important role in helping the sangat develop resilience.
As a method of coping with my own life stresses I have found that washing dishes at Gurdwara serves multiple purposes: Firstly, I let go of my own ego and problems: much of my anxiety is caused by thinking about “the self”. So, when I am with a group of people with a common goal to work for the benefit of the community, I forget “the self” and I forget all the anxieties of living, because am with sangat that has a group consciousness with no other goal other than to serve. All those niggling problems have little chance to manifest and grow within my mind in this situation. For me, seva combats loneliness.
Another mechanism for building resilience is relishing in natural beauty and art. The arts are a reflection of life and truth. The media has created a false standard of beauty and tells us how to look and behave certain ways to achieve perfection, but the reality is far from the truth. There is a perfect canvas on the sky with the silhouette of trees, there is perfection in the color of the autumn leaves and the smiles of children…those are pure beauty. Those are experiences of beauty that, in my opinion, are far deeper than selection of eye shadows on a counter. Being with nature has tremendously helped me developing resilience.
Having faith further helps develop resilience. Personally, every knock back is an opportunity from Waheguru for me to learn and do better. Our Siri Guru Granth Sahib has the answers to all of our questions and solutions to all of our problems. Adopting the belief systems inherent in Sikhi or any other faith helps communities come together, to work together and work towards a common goal of supporting each other; thereby, rebuilding broken communities. Faith also provides me with a belief system to view the life in a way so I don’t get attached to worldly goods and people. It provides peace and joy within my mind. For me, this is essential to developing resilience and to counter the shocks of change and other problems. Resilient communities and people revitalise quickly and are stronger because they have ability to heal and grow. Our healing balm is the faith in our Guru Granth Sahib.
After the book launching, I was extremely lucky to participate in “Simran in the City,” an event where city workers join once a week to meditate. Mediating on Waheguru allowed me to bathe in bliss. I then returned home to run a multi-faith scout group. I feel so lucky to have so much learning and fun in one day!