Meeting the Resistance

stress_conniehabash_counseling_psychotherapy_yoga_spiritualityIt’s that time of the month.  No, I don’t mean that feminine time of the month.  It’s the time that my newsletter is due.  I’ve gotten a number of other very productive things done around the house, for my mother, etc… all in avoidance of sitting down and writing my monthly article.  Resistance has arisen, and I know it’s time to meet it.

As I sit down and allow myself to feel the resistance, there is a tension in my heart.  A well of emotion springs up.  I take some deep breaths and allow myself to feel it.  I move into the resistance, rather than away from it.  The “I can’t”s and the “I don’t want to”s arise:  still, I sit with it.  I allow myself to soften into this tension, this resistance, and get to know it.  My chest feels heavy, and I feel overwhelmed.

Dealing with resistance

Resistance is a common experience.  We feel it in our bodies, in the places of holding, gripping, and stiffness.  We also feel it in our hearts, in the places that cling and the places that hide, in the scary and the powerful.  It manifests in the reticence to let go, whether in a yoga pose or during an argument; it also manifests in a resistance to take action and change.

Our tendency, when resistance arises, is one of two paths.  We may deny it, push it away, hide it, or distract ourselves from it by doing something, anything else.  We may also try to stampede through it, doing violence by making ourselves do something we aren’t yet willing to do.  These two reactions create less than desirable results, and they don’t give us the opportunity to get to the bottom of the matter.  They also don’t allow us to shift out of that space organically, moving through and releasing it.

A third way – meeting it

The path to moving through the resistance is meeting it.  Coming right up to it and allowing ourselves to feel it, getting to know it.  The first benefit of this practice is that the tension eases.  We notice this on the yoga mat.  Resistance happens when a muscle is unwilling to stretch further, and we feel the place of tension.  Liken this to a wire stretched between two poles:  the wire will only remain taught when the poles pull away from each other, creating resistance.  If one pole were to lean toward the other pole, the wire goes slack.  If it pulls away from the other pole, the wire tightens, firms, and ultimately, if the force is too great, snaps.

Thus, on the yoga mat, the path through the resistance is a little counter-intuitive.  We are compelled to stretch the muscles, so we tend to push into the stretch, trying to make the muscle open.  Often, this creates more tension, as the body resists aggressive attempts at stretching in order to prevent injury.  Still, if we don’t extend the muscle at all, we’ll never experience more flexibility.  So we meet the resistance:  feeling the opening, then softening a bit, backing off.  Then moving mindfully back to the stretch, breathing, feeling it; then softening again, noticing the response.

A new awareness

This moving softly into the apex of the stretch and then ever so slightly away again gives us a new awareness of both the muscle group and ourselves.  What arises for me emotionally?  What thoughts do I have, as I explore around the edges of this resistance?  I don’t give up on the stretch all-together; I simply move in to meet it, and then soften back a bit.

Finally, after exploring this intentionally for a few breaths, I come to meet that extension of the muscle again (not too rigorously nor too passively), and remain there, breathing.  What happens now?  What can I release within myself?  Am I willing to be here and breathe, no matter the outcome?  What is really opening – is it my muscle, or something deeper within myself?  What I often discover is that the muscle is only the gateway, the opening into something greater, if I allow myself to remain there and be for a while.

Yoga shows us how to heal the heart’s resistance

We can take a similar approach to our emotional resistance within.  I return to my heart, where I feel the heaviness of this resistance. There is a longing, an ache that calls for my attention – and my action.  That is where the resistance arises; in my unwillingness to take action where I am called to do so.  Yes, it’s time to write my article, but it’s also time for something greater.  My heart knows that it’s time to let go of something and time to become more than I’ve allowed myself to be.

Suddenly, I feel stuck.  The words aren’t coming, at least the words that I think I should write.  I want to read a book, go to the bathroom, anything other than feel what arises.  Anything other than the action that I am being told to take.  I’d prefer to stay safe and comfortable in what already is.  I pause and soften, waiting; then I return to meeting this inner resistance.

A call to action

Resistance is a call to action.  That’s why it feels uncomfortable.  It reflects the two energies pulling apart from each other within us:  the energy that wants to grow and transform, and the energy that wants to stay the same and be safe.  Most of the time, we prefer to choose what is more safe and comfortable – the familiar, the habitual, the least risky.  But our inner self beckons to us – something is happening, something is ready to open, to grow, and we need to make space for it.   We need to be willing to change.  If we want to evolve as human and spiritual beings, we need to heed the call of resistance.

I discover that my resistance is to being still – strangely, my call to action is to stop acting.  Just stop.  As I sit without moving, there is a desire to open to something greater; but that brings up fear.  What will change, what will die within me, as I open to what is newly being born?  It’s easier to cling to what is familiar than to become wide open to what the Divine brings, because we know that it requires a shift in our perceptions, beliefs, habits, or even course in life.  Still, I trust in that higher good to bring even greater possibilities than I can imagine on my own.  The resistance calls me to sit, be still, and allow myself to be changed.

Meeting it allows it to reveal itself

But what do I DO, I ask myself?  As I sit quietly and meet the resistance, I realize that the question is just a distraction.  For whenever I open my heart to what is arising, the right action reveals itself, in time.  I may have to wait a day, a week, a month or longer, but eventually it shows up.  I don’t have to figure it out.  And that is tremendously freeing:  when I am truly ready to hold my resistance in attentiveness, compassion, and deep interest, the process unfolds in its own natural way, just as the pose opens when the body is ready.  What a relief to let go of “figure it out” mind, and let my Self be guided by something greater.

So when you discover the resistance arising on your mat or at your desk, take some time to soften into it, meet it, get to know it.  It is like spirit’s gentle text message:  hey, can you please pay attention?  Can you stop long enough to feel this and listen?  Trust that as you do, a new, transformed life reveals itself to you in powerful and magical ways.

Copyright © 2010 by Constance L. Habash

Want to receive more inspiring articles?  Subscribe to my newsletter!