Resistance: how it can make life harder and the role Mindfulness and Self-Compassion can play in resisting a little less.
Session Details - April, 2018. Our discussion explored the origins of resistance, the ways we naturally resist and some wisdom from Pema Chödrön on resistance. We then explored how Mindfulness and Self-Compassion can be the transforming agent needed for resistance.
The origins of resistance:
Resistance is a normal movement of the mind, perhaps driven by our primal desire to survive.
Along the trajectory of our life we collect beliefs (stories / rules) around what this ‘survival’ may equate to, there can be a lot of them; perhaps one (or more) for all the different roles we play.
When we detect a potential threat to one of these, or when an aspect of our life is not going according to our plans – enter resistance - we are alerted to do something about it.
This sounds simple, even sounds like a good idea to me, so lets get curious about how this habit of mind to want things to go a certain way and to be on the alert for any potential deviations of our view of this way can cause us unnecessary suffering.
Enter the good old equation:
Suffering = Pain x Resistance
Mindfulness asks us to open to our moment-to-moment experience as it is. When we believe our moment-to-moment experience should be other than it is our human response is to resist.
If most of our suffering is from resistance, and most of our resistance is unconscious can we explore our normal conditioned reactions with curiosity and kindness?
Ways we naturally resist:
• Distraction / obliviousness / personification / what else???
- Pema Chödrön, from her book The Places That Scare You.
It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that meditation becomes a transformative process. Only when we relate with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception, can we let go of harmful patterns. Without maitre [unconditional friendliness – acceptance of ourselves], renunciation of old habits becomes abusive. This is an important point.
[In our meditation] Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime. The irony is that what we most want to avoid in our lives is crucial. Of course, we’ll want to get out of those spots far more often than we’ll want to stay. That’s why self-compassion and courage are vital. Staying with pain without loving-kindness is just warfare. (:34)
MSC really brings to the fore that for mindfulness to be a transforming agent it needs to swim and breathe in the container of certain qualities, such as loving-kindness, compassion, equanimity and joy. Practicing our MSC within this container we are slowly marinated – softened, tenderized.
To keep things simple we can aspire to living with a warm heart as one way of lessening the struggle of resistance.
We understand that feeling different, disconnected and like something is wrong adds to the suffering of ressitance. Therefore practices that increase acceptance and equanimity are important. Carl Jung in his final retrospective remarks may help regarding finding a sense of connection and equanimity – ‘Yet there is so much that fills me –planets, animals, clouds, day, night, and the eternal in humanity. The more uncertain I have felt about myself, the more that has grown up in me a feeling of kinship with all things.’
Key Imagery & practices for cultivating greater loving acceptance:
• Gravity – noticing how we accept it
• Practices for activating the calming system
• Compassionate image / ccompassionate letter writing
• Allow your experience of resistance to be contained within the SC break
• Compassionate dialogue with an aspect of you or your life you are resisting
“In the garden of gentle sanity, may you be bombarded by coconuts of wakefulness.”
– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
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
“The secret of Zen is just two words: not always so.” – Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Playfulness, to loosen the grip of our beliefs:
Enhancing our human capacity via play. We can exercise the kinesthetic body of our muscular imagination and this can have a powerful effect on our physical body.
Recognition – Daron Larson
It is so difficult to see this shell because the countless others we’ve seen before cloud the view,
along with how we expect it to look and how it might be improved.
Even the faces of the ones we love deeply hide like buried treasure behind histories of expression.
In order to see what is right in front of our eyes,
we first have to recognize we have gradually become blind,
and then begin the slow work of forgetting.
Let us pray for wisdom - Michael Luenig
Let us pause from thinking and empty our mind.
Let us stop the noise.
In the silence let us listen to our heart.
The heart, which is buried alive.
Let us be still and wait and listen carefully.
A sound from the deep, from below.
A faint cry.
A weak tapping.
Distant muffled feelings from within.
The cry for help.
We shall rescue the entombed heart.
We shall bring it to the surface, to the light and the air.
We shall nurse it and listen respectfully to its story.
The heart’s story of pain and suffocation, of darkness and yearning.
We shall help our feelings to live in the sun.
Together again we shall find relief and joy.