Lessons from Bamboo

Published: January 13, 2023
Category: Mental HealthMind/Body Well-BeingStories

Did you know that bamboo is actually stronger than steel? This is because of something called tensile strength. Tensility is defined as the resistance to breaking or splitting under tension. In the case of these two materials, bamboo is actually stronger than steel because it has a more tightly packed molecular structure. Bamboo has tensile strength of 28,000 pounds per square inch versus 23,000 for steel. 

It’s true that you can never judge a book by its cover—or a structure for its strength—from the outside. 

The same is true for people, as well.

I define human tensility as being able to weather life’s traumas or emotional storms by bending and shifting without breaking apart. In these turbulent times, having an adaptive mindset is an invaluable life skill since the only thing that is constant is change. 

Twenty-five years ago, a phone call at four o’clock in the morning launched a trifecta of trauma that changed my life forever. Three experiences with death and illness occurred in my family in just ten months. My beloved brother died suddenly of an asthma-induced heart attack, my father was battling lymphoma, and my son became catastrophically ill. When my family’s world imploded, I felt as if I had become irrevocably damaged. Instead, I discovered my calling during a sunrise walk during the height of my son’s illness. I heard the word “Soaringwords” and suddenly knew why I was born. I channeled my passion and resilience into launching a nonprofit with the mission to inspire people to take active roles in self-healing to experience greater physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Photos, from top: Lisa’s father, Charlie ; brother Gary; and son Joshua.

Giving people the tools they need to become their own champions has been transformative, especially for individuals in marginalized communities who face systemic disparities and are treated as less-than. Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution for mental health challenges, I’ve built a people-first mindset into Soaringwords’ workshops and hospital initiatives that have already helped more than 500,000 people boost their tensility, find their voice, and take steps to improve their mental health and wellbeing. When someone is taught how to strengthen their personal agency and resilience, they are better able to be more adaptive when confronted with setbacks and challenges.

Lisa Honig Buksbaum delivers a SOARINGQuilt to a child who is hospitalized.

After a harsh storm, you may have noticed when the largest and tallest trees are upended. Like these rigid structures, when people insist on standing entrenched in rigid beliefs and preconceived notions, they are less likely to be present in the here and now. Rather, they become deeply rooted in the past and become stuck in a ruminating cycle of “what never was” and “what should have been.” That’s when harsh storms can flatten them. When this happens, people can fail to notice subtle or abrupt changes and this results in being unable to adapt. There are many serious mental health consequences of being unable to accept change. Life doesn’t stop for anyone—it keeps moving forward. I’m sure you can think about people you know who are stuck in the past, living bitter lives, isolated from any good or nourishing support that might surround them. This reminds me of the wise adage, “Look back, but don’t stare.” When people are encouraged to have awareness and acceptance of challenges, then they are more emotionally and mentally capable of addressing these issues. When someone fiercely refuses to adapt to change, they can not progress. They become mired in resentment as they experience their life contracting. 

“Being open to being open” is always a productive way to learn from past experiences. Listen and grow from the experiences and examples of others, and to try things out to see what works for you. Focusing on gratitude is one of the most effective Positive Psychology interventions that has been empirically proven to shift focus from paucity to hopefulness. The Three Good Things technique, also referred to as “Finding the Good” is a scientifically-proven way to amplify gratitude (Greater Good in Action, n.d). Finding and savoring gratitude is especially useful when you are in the midst of a slump, setback, or challenging time. Here’s how it works: at the beginning or end of each day simply write down three good things that you noticed or for which you are grateful.

Life is lived forward and best understood looking backward. According to Drs. Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, pioneering scientists who coined the term Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG), there are five domains of PTG that 67 percent of people report experiencing after setbacks or trauma (Tedeschi et al, 2018). While no one wishes for trauma, loss, or reversals to happen, thousands of individuals report experiencing these five domains which represent an enhancement and deeper appreciation of life than before the trauma or setback. These domains include:

Spending time reflecting on the speed bumps in your life may yield tremendous insight to allow you to be more adaptable to navigate current and future setbacks. Remember, the only thing constant is change and we can strengthen our ability to be adaptive to change. 

I’m sending  you strength and love.

Soaringwords is the power to heal.


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