Acknowledging the life difficulties all humans face universally, this experience focuses on how adversity can be a tool leading to personal transformation via a process called “post-traumatic growth.” The application of mindfulness to this knowledge can increase resilience in the face of difficulty and potentially increase the chances of experiencing growth in the process.  We will mine our own lives for resilient experiences and identify resources for overcoming adversity already present and available.  Participants will leave with a tool kit for facing the challenges inherent in the human experience in healthy and life-giving ways.

Reflections from Participants: 

  • “[Mindful] Growth is a gush of wind pushing us painfully forward. We will look messy but will be stronger.”
  • “[Mindful growth is] the clay of the sculptor, pushed, pulled and transformed into a new shape.”
  • “[Mindful growth is] clouds- many forms and transitions over time.”
  • “Winter [adversity] forces me to be inside and fairly inactive- to slow down and rest. When the days are long in light, I work myself until it is dark. I get frenzied and irritable- no resilience. Winter prepares me with the stores of peace and rest so I can cope and endure and appreciate the daylight.”

My Own Experience: 

“I feel myself wiggling as things get uncomfortable- trying to escape feelings, escape sitting with my pain. ‘But maybe… But what if…’ [I ask myself].” 

Aug. 2014, journal entry by Brandi Lust

More About Growth: 

Transformational adversity is humanity’s oldest story. One could almost say it is the human story. It runs deep in every major religion and myth and is the arch of the modern narrative.

Culture, however, sometimes portrays happiness as the “default” human condition, concluding that difficult mental and emotional states are transitory distractions, and are perhaps even atypical. Confirmed by therapist Tori Rodriguez in an article for Scientific American,“ In recent years I have noticed an increase in the number of people who also feel guilty or ashamed about what they perceive to be negativity… Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time.”

Despite this cultural phenomenon, “the flies are part of the picnic.” Darkness and light occur on a continuum and need one another to accentuate their true nature. Each is integral to the human experience, and to truly dive into the depths of one’s own growth, both will be felt with equal intensity.


Growth (1)


“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”

-Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

There are times in life when a choice is made to “expose ourselves to annihilation” as Pema Chodron states. We make a choice to let go of a relationship that no longer works, to be vulnerable with someone we love, to expose a secret we have worked hard to keep, or to let go of a job in order to move into a next phase of life.

There are as many other times, however, when it takes no bravery at all to fall past the cusp of difficulty into the darkness of total annihilation.  We have made no choice, and yet everything is different, harder, worse, and it seems it may be that way always.




“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

–Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Flowers and I have a long history soaked in sadness and beauty.  For me, flowers are linked to death, linked to  joyously being alive, linked to the connection between the two.

My flower story begins with my beloved Grandma Rose who passed away last October.  We were very close, and I had the fortunate experience of living with her throughout most of college with my oldest son and also of being a close partner with her as she traveled through her death experience.

Grandma Rose was a lover of beauty and had an artist’s soul.  Her house was decorated with her own art works and the works of her many friends.  Her backyard leading out to the barn was also crafted by her loving and expressive hands.  It had a small coy pond on the back patio surrounded by an expansive garden where lavish bounties of perennial flowers grew and bloomed of their own accord each spring.




“… You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen…”

― Ernest HemingwayA Moveable Feast

Fall is akin to the word bittersweet for me- beautiful yes, but also full of remembrance for what has become past. Each fall I am reminded of every fall before, and the last couple have been quite difficult. Fall signals the most tumultuous time in my marriage. It signals the beginnings of a slide into a wintery depression. Fall is the time when my grandmother Rose died last year.

Mel shared with me an insight about fall, however, that has somewhat affected the way I perceive the season.