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Working with Resistance

Updated: May 9, 2019


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

There is no need to judge ourselves for being resistant; rather, we should just recognize the self-pity or fear or apathy, see these states, and remember that there is another possibility, one that has to do with opening, with becoming mindful. Instead of pushing away or closing off, we can soften ourselves, soften the mind, so that it becomes receptive and allowing, more gentle and relaxed. We don't have to be in a struggle, even with things that are painful. When we allow ourselves to be more relaxed and more open, the possibility arises of seeing more clearly exactly what is going on.


Joseph Goldstein & Jack Kornfield: Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation

Self-pity, fear, apathy... Is it possible for you to see those states as forms of resistance? As we look at these things, this path gradually reveals truths that underlie our all-too-human experiences.


What is the price of resistance?


When I am involved in self-pity its true that there is something akin to consoling going on - a kind of self-care - but also something else that doesn't allow anyone else in: self-involvement - a form of shutting down; a turning away from seeing reality without the clouds of my emotions covering up the scene.


Actually, all three of those states, self-pity, fear, and apathy, describe forms of turning away don't they? If I fear pain, I avoid. If I don't care, I ignore. In all three mental states I allow myself to push others away, to harden my heart and to isolate. I become an island unto myself - alone and protected by distance. Safety, in a world defined by resistance, is lonely indeed.


Mindfulness turns away from the habit of turning away.


The miraculous thing about this practice is that it accomplishes this alchemy without self-judgment; without self-attack, without struggle. It simply notices the resistance. As we remember that we have options, it strengthens our hearts so that we can open ourselves to face those things we can't control; it permits reality to be here - even if it hurts. Mindfulness teaches us how to accept what is, and that shift changes everything.


When we become mindful we can relax and become gentle. We can see reality because we are no longer closing ourselves off from whatever is arising. If we think of our resistance as a filter that blocks our true perceptions of life as it is, then the absence of resistance gives us an ability to see things clearly.


Once we can accept things as they are, we have taken the first step toward engagement. As we engage, we can act skillfully. As we act skillfully we create new conditions. New conditions bring new realities to life.


As our resistance falls away instead of self-pity, fear and apathy, we find connection, courage and compassion. We are no longer victims, no longer afraid, no longer disengaged. And as we change our relationship to the world, it also changes. It mirrors the internal transformation itself. It reveals itself to be less alone, less fearful, less uncaring.


When we leave the island of resistance, we rejoin humanity. Through this gentle practice we empower ourselves to open up our lives and benefit others.




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