Resilience: How Mindfulness Helps Us Face Life’s Challenges with Compassion, Clarity, and Courage

Linda Graham, MFT is an experienced psychotherapist and mindful self-compassion teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of the award-winning book Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being and the new book Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster. Linda integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness, and relational psychology in her national and international training programs. Her weekly Resources for Recovering Resilience and monthly newsletter Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness are archived on her website In this contribution to the KineSophy Mindfulness Series, she shares a personal story of how mindfulness and self-compassion helped her face a mini-disaster.

“To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that
are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Mindfulness and Compassion

The mindfulness we practice on our cushion in the morning is the same mindfulness we practice to notice our reaction when our spouse frowns at us or our boss yells at us… and to notice our reactivity when we are frowning or yelling at them!

The compassion we practice in a weekly class or a daylong seminar is the same compassion we practice when we or someone we love loses a job, or a relationship, or a home, or their health.

The resourcing in community we experience on a meditation retreat is the same resourcing we seek in a support group for cancer survivors or for those who have lost a loved on in a car accident or in combat.


Here’s my own story of how these practices helped me cope with one of life’s mini-disasters.

When I had an office in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, I would park my car in Golden Gate Park and walk two blocks to my office. I could do that on automatic pilot. One day I was worried about something, not paying enough attention to where I was walking, and blithely stepped into a sidewalk of freshly laid wet cement—up to my ankles.

Immediately the self-critical talk started. “You stupid klutz! Look what you’ve done. You’ve ruined your shoes. You’re going to be late for clients. You’ll have to re-schedule clients. You’ll probably lose clients over this. You’ll lose your business…” All in less than three seconds, an instant slide into a deep rabbit hole of shaming-blaming-catastrophizing.

Fortunately, by then I had enough mindfulness and self-compassion practice under my belt that I could stop… “Wait a minute! So I was pre-occupied! I really don’t want to feel so lousy about myself when I was just unconscious for a moment. I need to do this differently. I need to slow down here, collect myself, try to be a little kinder to myself, right here, right now, step out of this sidewalk, and deal.”

Stencil painting on cement of Buddha and word "compassion"

With that interruption of my catastrophic thinking, I gently picked up my feet out of my shoes and picked my shoes out of the cement. And tried for a little bit of compassion for myself. “Stuff happens. I’m probably not the only person on the planet who made a mistake today because they weren’t paying attention. This is probably not the only mistake I’m going to make today. Sure, I’m a little embarrassed, but that doesn’t mean anything more about me than I just wasn’t paying attention.”

There was an apartment building a few steps away with an outdoor water faucet, and as I began to wash off my shoes, it dawned on me: “Yes, shit happens. Life is happening this way to me in this moment. But ‘shift happens’, too.” I could open to the lesson of the moment: choosing to shift my perspective and cope resiliently right there, right then.

One of the construction workers came over and gave me some paper towels to dry my shoes – and to this day I’m grateful he was kind; he wasn’t teasing or humiliating. And then I realized, If I can change my attitude in this moment, I can change my attitude in any moment. That’s the big shift.

If I can change my attitude in this moment, I can change my attitude in any moment.

Any time we mindfully shift our response, we become more resilient; we learn and grow, we recover our well-being.

Read the other articles in the KineSophy Mindfulness Series.

Image “SF Mission buddha compassion” modified from