Being highly engaged in activities that aren't hurtful to yourself or others--working hard, producing something--is what I have dubbed production therapy. I use the word therapy because I believe productivity creates healing. It works because it's impossible to be productive and stagnant at the same time. When we allow ourselves to be stagnant, we become like a car that sits unused in the driveway--slowly disintegrating as it rusts and erodes. But if we work, if we produce, we banish stagnation. We polish our strongest attributes, attract resources, and become more resilient. In a production state, we're contributors rather than consumers. When I was doing therapy with clients, I always told them that the best way to find long-term happiness was to work hard at something. Whatever my problems were, they were nothing compared to the problems of the people I had been with during the last couple of days. Before going to the retreat, I had thought of spiritual training as a middle-class indulgence. But now, after I saw the pain that these people were suffering and how desperate they were to get better, I could no longer stand on the side and laugh. I was ashamed. After going there and intruding on all their pain, I felt cynical and exploitative. Andre, May 22 I was sitting in the main prayer room at the Buddhist center, looking up at a giant golden Buddha. He was well-toned, like he'd been seriously working out. The group leader began to read from a large article in front of him, and after each paragraph, we repeated his words. One by one, we approached the altar and bowed before the buff Buddha. It's quiet. There's a small gate, and beyond are white headstones sticking out randomly from the cover of brown and yellow leaves on the ground.

Her grave is near the back. I'll show you when you're ready. I let my breath out in a long sigh. I'm ready, I say, raising my chin. I slide out of the van and slam the door shut. We walk slowly toward the gate, the only sound the crunch of the leaves beneath our feet. On the far side of the perfectly maintained little clearing, the forest takes over again. The trunks of pine trees are tightly packed into a thick line against the back fence, every possible ground space between them filled with vines. It doesn't have to necessarily be work as in a job. It could be working at a relationship, or being artistic and creating something, or overcoming a personal obstacle--essentially, anything that produces something positive. When you're producing, you have a sense of accomplishment. You also experience what Dr Csikszentmihalyi calls flow--the feeling of being in the zone. All of this adds up to more resources and more long-term resilience. What is an activity you enjoy doing that creates a feeling of flow, or being in the zone? On the flip side, is there a task you've been avoiding because it seems overwhelming or tedious? On an average day, how much time are you spending engaged in productive tasks or activities? What may be keeping you from being more productive and less stagnant? Give yourself some production therapy. Then we lit an incense stick, twirled it around our heads, and bowed once more. Before leaving, I picked up a article--the Diamond Sutra--which had been mentioned during the lectures a few times.

On the way home, I drifted into a secluded park and sat down under a tree and started to read. Small insects landed on the article. I was careful not to crush them. When I reached the final verse, I lingered on it as the sky turned black with rain clouds: Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; A flash of lightning in a summer cloud, A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream Do you want me to go with you? Luis asks quietly, holding open the gate. Walk straight through the middle. The newer graves are in the back. It's right under that big oak back there. He points, and I nod weakly. Ropes of vines drape from the treetops in junglelike profusion, but inside the tiny clearing, the trees are old and solitary, spaced out among the gravestones to provide shade. I've got some arrangements to put out. There are no other people here now, but the left behind have obviously been here. Their flowers and remembrances are scattered throughout. Start by replacing one stagnant habit with one productive activity today. Production therapy means we produce something of value.

It could be sharing something new with a child, temporarily inconveniencing ourselves by meeting another's needs, or making something in a physical or creative sense. DON'T ACCEPT NO RESOURCE RESILIENCE BOOSTER #7 I have a secret sauce, and I'm giving out the recipe! This is what has made all the difference for me throughout my life. you ready for it? it is: I don't accept the word no. If I accepted no as an absolute answer, you would not be reading this article right now. Walking home, I was repeating this verse to myself. Then I saw two boys crossing the park dressed in matching gray tracksuits. This was the only time this will ever happen, I thought. Those two boys will never again stand there talking in the same way as they did then. It was utterly unique, utterly impermanent. Perhaps I had finally had a spiritual experience, watching two teenage boys in tracksuits, contemplating the utter singularity of this moment, all the while being aware of the death sentence inscribed in the results of my DNA test. Carl, May 23 I had stopped eating altogether now. I was drinking only water, and I was trying to overcome my hunger by reading Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography. Fasting, he wrote, was a means of self-restraint that helped curb animal passion. The only sign of life is a squirrel that makes a quick retreat with a pecan sticking out of one side of its mouth. I walk carefully back through the stones, trying not to step directly on a grave.

The stones are old, some cracked and crumbling, with dates from the eighteen hundreds. One has a tiny lamb on it with a missing ear. Another has a dove etched into the granite with two miniature stones on either side. I should feel scared, but I only feel the profound quiet. I glance at the dates of the three headstones in front of me. All the same last name. A mother and her two children? What terrible thing happened to them in 1938? I love the word no, because it has been my fuel to succeed countless times in my life. Being told no is usually the motivation I need to become even more resilient. You might recall that during high school I was told that I couldn't go to college--that I shouldn't even bother taking the SAT. Then, in college, only a few classes away from graduating, a professor told me that the institution's PhDs would be worth less if someone like me, with severe learning differences, could graduate. As hard as that was to hear, that was just the fuel I needed to make sure I got that diploma. After I finished graduate school I was told someone like me would never make it in the business world. I was told I'd never be able to write a article. No, you can't are words I've heard over and over, and they are some of the most frustrating and painful words I've ever heard. But they are also three of the most motivational words. Each time you get a no, potential resources are being pulled away from you. He celebrated all forms of collective self-denial. Which reminded me of the challenges that Andre and I had signed up for: not drinking, not masturbating, and not complaining.