What is a resilience retreat? What is it that Illoura Peace Retreats and Space Bangkok offer our participants? Some read the explanations within our web sites and immediately connect with the relevance and understand their needs. Others not so, and have many questions: Why is resilience important? What do you aim to achieve on your retreats? What will participation do for me? Author Eric Greitens (2015) captures the importance of resilience in his recent book title Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life.
Eric Greitens is an ex US Navy Seal. My fear when purchasing this book was that I was purchasing an airport read offering some formulae for resilience. This is not the case. Eric doesn’t position himself as the expert but simply shares his research and stories on his, and his friend’s, approach to building and remaining resilient as returned combatants. In fact the book is built around a series of letters between Eric and his friend, Zach Walker.
In a chapter titled “Identity”, he focuses on three words: feelings, actions, and identity. I can identify with Eric’s thoughts in this chapter. He makes some observations around focusing on our feelings, and how this focus will have our feelings informing our actions and shaping our identity. He suggests the converse is more effective. If we have a firm image of our identity, it will inform our actions and resultant feelings.
As I thought lot about Eric’s observations on these three words, I recalled a story shared by a fellow peacebuilder. Unfortunately, I can’t recall who the peacebuilder was or the exact setting of the story. If the teller identifies my use of their story, please let me know so I can properly attribute it. I think it was set in a Nepalese village.
The peacebuilder told me of a boy, a homeless orphan, who was living on the street. This orphan managed to get himself to school every day. The peacebuilder reported that this boy was the happiest and most engaged student in the class. This fascinated the peacebuilder given the hardship of his life. The peacebuilder learnt more about this boy and learnt from the boy. Yes, he had a difficult life, wondering where the next meal would come from, studying under street lamps, and the class prejudice of fellow students. But this boy would not let the negative feelings of the hardship he faced inform who he was going to be. He had his identity and future aspirations of his identity established. These informed his actions and resultant feelings.
The participants of our retreats generally have a firm image of their current identity. These identities are often challenged by the hardships of their work - fatigue, burnout, questioning our usefulness, and some of the negative impacts of the relentlessness of the work that is so very important to us. Our retreats undertake to reconnect our participants with actions that bridge identity toward positive feelings about who we are and what we do. We look to reinvigorate their current wellbeing through positive actions. We look to reconnect them with actions that are both familiar and new actions and that will help sustain their identity and create positive feelings. The actions we connect, or reconnect, them with are playful, fun, creative, and nurturing. They will keep them in the here and now remembering and enjoying who they are and their purpose. Some may feel easy, some challenging, yet all are explored and enjoyed with like minded people.