Resistance: how MSC can assist you to resist a little less
Session Details - March 6th, 2017. We started a deep listening practice, followed by the heart practice of giving and receiving. The discussion flourished post an exerices of deep listening in pairs regarding part of the body that we resist.
The origins of resistance:
There are definite moments where it may be wise self-care to distract and even protect one’s self from certain things in life. Unfortunately ‘what we resist persists’. As we strengthen our mindfulness and our self-compassion resources we can begin the process of ‘attending and befriending’ those things in our life that we would dearly like to be different. Mindfulness is needed as most our resistance is unconscious, once the light is on – ‘what we feel we can heal’, this is done with the balm of loving acceptance and warm connection to our humanity. ‘The curious paradox of life is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.’ – Carl Rogers
Suffering = Pain x Resistance
Resistance often manifests as judgements / criticism, a solid sense of right – wrong. After all, we are social creatures, and in part, a product of our societal norms. It is easy for this to create a sense of them and us as a means of control and safety; this can also be created within one’s self, leading to disconnection within one’s own skin so to speak. The medicine of this is MSC.
How MSC wove its way into softening my habit state of resistance:
A personal reflection from Tina
Resistance refers to the wish that our moment-to-moment experience be other than it is, for some the wish is far harsher that the word ‘wish’ sounds – for some of it is a struggle of otherness, separation and pain. I come from a history of mastering this thing named resistance – I truly believed it was my role – the part I needed to play.
I needed to be other than I was, better… a better mother, wife, woman, meditator, teacher, artist, gardener…the painful list went on and on, it actually left nothing out, all of me encaged in resistance, this was familiar, this was all I knew.
Later in life, as my mindful awareness blossomed into a warmer, more compassionate awareness, I could no longer ignore the tight knots this was creating and turning within me, the weight of it bearing down upon me all the time. A small crack appeared in the wall I had built around myself – the one that supposedly was assisting me to wage war on my life, all in the name of a life of substance, one that mattered. A small crack that hurt and left me vulnerable, scared that surely out of this crack I would bleed to death, bleed out all my ability to try so hard, to fight against all things that were easy, to be able to ward off the laziness of simply being me. I felt the terror of what I may be left with – what lay behind the wall if I stopped resisting.
But the wee crack let in something I never expected, it let in my humanity, and others came with it. This was like a small crack in a huge damn, there was no turning back, the opening became me – open – soft – vulnerable – vast and edgeless. It turned out the protective wall of trying so hard was actually making me smaller and more disconnected – now that the wall has crumbled away I am fully here, with all things, part of all things. The damn has burst, the river flows and faith blossoms. In kindly connection, Tina
‘Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend.’ - Bauman 1991: 8
Judgements, how to ease off them
1. Redefine ‘OK’. We are instinctively hard-wired to look out for threats, so when we perceive something to be against our perceived version of ok we feel threatened.
We can go into fight-flight-freeze mode, and are often unable to see the myriad of choices regarding our response and ways of being with the situation. We get tight, defensive and go into ‘fix it’ or reactive mode. This is a normal first reaction. The key is to pause before we act out of this mode, the pause allows us to broaden our perspective, be more realistic about challenges – redefining ok, ok does not mean zero things causing difficulties, perhaps it means reminding yourself that – ‘I am here’, ‘I’ve got this’, or ‘this too will pass’ – turning up for yourself, just as you would a good friend.
2. Be mindful. Although judgment and aversion are natural instincts, start noticing yourself before your thought becomes either spoken, or send in an email or text, or your resistance becomes set in stone. When things don’t go according to plans, a mindful moment can be the breathing space to creatively engage with a situation as opposed to wage war against it.
3. Depersonalize. When someone disagrees with us or somehow makes our life difficult, remember that it’s typically not about us. It may be about their pain, their struggle. Why not give others the benefit of the doubt? Will Smith said, “Never underestimate the pain of a person, because in all honesty, everyone is struggling. Some people are better at hiding it than others.”
4. Repeat the mantra, “Just Like Me.” Remember, we are more alike than different. So when you feel critical of someone take a moment to repeat the phrase – ‘just like me’. The other person may love their family just like you do, and that person wants to be happy and free of suffering, just like you do. And most importantly, that person makes mistakes, just like you do.
5. Think outside the square. Mindfulness gives us the space to open to new ways of looking at people and situations. Everyone has a ‘story’, when people do things that are annoying, they may simply be acting out of their ‘story’ so to speak, how life has imprinted on them in the helpful and unhelpful ways. Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The Dalai Lama says, “People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost.”
6. Feel content within and about you. Living a mindful and compassionate life really is an inside job. We can want so many external things to be different, but looking within with loving acceptance of all you find there – this is where it starts – from the inside then out.
Brene´ Brown says: “If I feel good about my parenting I have no interest in judging other people's choices. If I feel good about my body, I don't go around making fun of other people's weight or appearance. We're hard on each other because were using each other as a launching pad out of her own perceived deficiency.”
7. Reframe your thoughts. A mindful moment can open us to potentially suspending judgement upon a situation in life; instead of labelling something as wrong or a failure be curious about the perhaps hidden opportunity for change, growth or learning.
A zen story of acceptance
One day an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he left his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life. Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, "What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?" The farmer replied: "Who knows? We shall see".
Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses, which followed the old horse into the corral. Word got out in the village of the old farmer's good fortune and it wasn't long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck. "How fortunate you are!" they exclaimed. You must be very happy!" Again, the farmer softly said, "Who knows? We shall see."
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer's only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer's son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer's latest misfortune. "Oh, what a tragedy! Your son won't be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You'll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad" they said. Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, "Who knows? We shall see."
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor's men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor's army. As it happened the farmer's son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. "What very good fortune you have!" the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. "You must be very happy." "Who knows? We shall see", replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.
As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again the neighbors came to pay their condolences. "Oh what bad luck, too bad for you"! But the old farmer simply replied; "Who knows? We shall see."
As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: "Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy", to which the old farmer replied, "Who knows? We shall see!"
Key Imagery & practices for cultivating greater loving acceptance:
Affectionate breathing and tools for activating the calming system
ace of peace and contentment practice
Directing kindness to that part of you that is resisting
Resistance exercise & compassionate letter writing
Compassionate dialogue with an aspect of you or your life you are resisting
Directing kindness to that part of you that is resisting:
Remembering that part of you that is resisting may well be trying to keep you safe, a natural swing of the human mind – it is nobody’s fault, but, at times, it does need to settle – so ‘what would love do? Yep that’s right – show compassion to its struggle.
• Slow the breathing, feel the resistance, feel it from the viewpoint of the compassionate self;
• Place a hand on your heart and send the resistance kindness: ‘may that which is resisting ease, may you settle and find peace’. Or use words of caring and soothing that resonate with you. Offer the question of what it is wishing you to know – listen deeply
Practicing slowing the breath and developing the kind voice are the two most important factors for a wise and more compassionate life. Practice these every day, as our brains are wired to do the opposite, to quickly move to anger, criticism and judgements – this is not our fault – but it is our responsibility to do something about it so we can live our lives fully and freely.