Far away in the forests of Finland, the word Sisu means: resilience; the ability to develop a courageous mindset that embraces challenges big and small; the willingness to act in adversity; to try new things and go beyond our limits; the ability to look creatively for practical solutions and ways to move forward; and generally building up strength of character that anyone can develop whatever our individual circumstances.

In theosophical terms Sisu would probably be the equivalent of two of what HP Blavatsky numbered amongst the seven qualities or Paramitas required of theosophical students: namely, Viraga, meaning indifference to pain and pleasure, and Virya, meaning dauntless energy. Kshong Khapa, the 13th century Buddhist teacher who founded the order of monks to which our Dalai Lama belongs, would probably find the equivalent of Sisu in what he called Joyous Perseverance which he said was the foundation of the six qualities required of spiritual students, namely: Generosity; Ethical Discipline; Patience; Joyous Perseverance; Meditative Stabilization; and Wisdom. But what practical ways are available today to find a way to our own version of Sisu?

We are fortunate to have a new book, Finding Sisu, by Finnish writer, Katja Pantzar, which provides some suggestions on finding our ‘Sisu’. She makes a range of very practical suggestions for establishing and maintaining good health and an attitude of ‘Sisu’ (Resilience) such as:

  • Eat simple healthful food;
  • Immerse ourselves in nature, eg. taking long walks in forests (‘forest-bathing’);
  • Common sense exercise routines based on daily activities that she calls, Incidental Exercise, such as doing gardening and housework;
  • Changing our attitudes where appropriate away from taking pills to viewing Movement as Medicine, by getting exercise whenever we can incorporate it into our lives. For the brave she suggests trying cold-water bathing and saunas as effective treatments for insomnia and depression;
  • Reconsider our priorities for what we buy, eg: buying second-hand, and asking ourselves whether we really need all items we dream about;
  • Take small steps to building a functional and balanced lifestyle;
  • Don’t always make a habit of taking the easy way out, eg. ride a bike to work, don’t get other people to do our domestic work;
  • Maintain a connection with nature in our daily lives in ways which are suited to our individual situation.

This all sounds like good advice for modern Western society where we are often beset by a general lack of patience and self-reliance in the community. Examples that spring to mind are, ‘road rage’ on our highways; the widespread sense of entitlement in modern Western communities, eg. abuse of our social welfare system, and the common practice blaming the government, society in general, God, or anyone else for our own problems; and a tendency to desire instant gratification encouraged by our obsession with technology and social media.

As the author of Finding Sisu says:

‘…In an unstable world where there are so many issues to be concerned about, from climate change to political and financial instability, tapping into a ‘Sisu’ mindset can offer a way forward, finding and building your inner strength and resilience to help you deal with life’s challenges…’ It all sounds like good Common Sense to me in facing our own daily challenges in the modern world and for our duties as theosophical students. As theosophical founder HP Blavatsky said when asked what are the three main requirements for a spiritual student, she said: ‘Common Sense, a Sense of Humour, and more Common Sense!’