As we face the prospect of another war in the middle east, acknowledging the bombings that have already happened there for weeks, and now are recognized officially as they will be continuing indefinitely, where do you feel resistance? Is it resistance to the engagement of U.S. people and funds in another war, resistance to killing, or resistance to a terrorist group who brutally eliminate the lives of others? On both sides — whether a dove or a hawk — the underlying dynamic is resistance, based on fear and rage at how people behave. The human mind seems to thrive on this opportunity to undermine its own capacity for freedom. The terrorists are born of resistance to life as it is and are demanding all people fall into their way of thinking or be killed. Many of the rest of us resist the terrorists and want them expunged from the planet. Others just resist the idea of war, bombing and killing no matter the cause, or resist the costs, whether in monetary or human terms. We are all driven in one way or another by resistance. And so we suffer.
When you feel disappointed, anxious or angry at something that is happening have you ever asked yourself “Is this the event that is upsetting me or is it my resistance to it?” In a talk Adyashanti once gave he commented that it is resistance that causes our suffering, even when faced with death. Of course we cannot avoid pain, but it may be possible to avoid suffering, Brain scientists tell us that negative news activates brain activity far more than positive news — we seem to be wired to get worked up and resist.
I know most of us feel at times that outside events are making our life or someone else’s life miserable, depressed and angry, and so we think if these circumstances would only change happiness and peace would again be possible. But the fact is when entangled in resistance to what is we are trading our own peace of mind for misery. It is hard to avoid resisting — somehow we think if we just resist a horrible event enough, rev up enough energy against it, we can make it go away. Some strange internal dynamic equates resistance with the power to change what has already happened. But isn’t it possible that change is not caused by resistance, but perspective and wisdom? And isn’t it often the case that resistance only makes life more difficult, extends suffering, and makes it difficult to find a lasting solution to a problem.
When we can shift out of resistance and into acknowledgement that this event that we do not like is the truth — it has happened, so there is no point in resisting it, –we may find a place in us that can take a deep breath, feel and release the emotions, then calmly assess what is happening, and explore our options. We may be sorrowful or stressed as we explore options. We may wish this loss or challenge had never happened at all. But we can act without that confused and angry resistance that will contract our stomach and fog our mind. Politically speaking this may mean writing letters, participating in a campaign or movement, voting, or for a few even leaving the country. Whatever the action it would be based on choice and thoughtful assessment of our point of view, not resistance, so we would feel more internally balanced and not wracked with despair.
In our personal life when faced with difficulties in our work or families that initially flood us with resistance and suffering will we make more effective choices when in the throes of negative feelings, or when we have accepted something has changed and we must make an adjustment, a decision, a new direction, or get appropriate help? How many times have you regretted an impulsive action based on anger or a misinterpretation of events?
Perhaps we cannot entirely eliminate resistance — as an initial flash it is telling us something is wrong, just like a pain in the gut tells us something is not working well. But we can reframe it as a message, an impulse that is telling us to look at fresh options, to explore what is needed or how we can make improvements, to discover ways to put more functionality or love in our life. Instead of carrying resistance like a rock for weeks, months or lifetimes, what can we learn from the difficult event? How can we change and grow in relationship to it? We are much bigger than the mind gives us credit for — there is great resilience and wisdom in the human spirit if we just connect with that part of us that goes along with our fate, and knows how to adapt and trust. We can find new aspects of our self, new options, new ways of looking at the world, and this may lead to creative solutions. Of course there will be sadness, and we will not always get what we want. But we can live with openness and curiosity rather than fear and resistance.
Of course this is easier said than done, and easier in a personal life than on the world stage, where large swaths of people seem destined to be crushed by violence, war, and poverty. Many times we prefer blindness and denial to resistance, because if we do not really know about the bad news then we won’t have to cope with our feelings about it. This is a kind of blind-resistance that can be nearly as uncomfortable as resistance, because we know something is going on out there that must be awful so our energy is engaged in avoiding it. But avoidance does not free us from resistance — it just postpones it.
So what do you need to stop resisting? One possibility is to see this resistance as energy — like that of an angry child who didn’t get the toy in the store and is going to throw a tantrum. How can you release the anger without any harm to yourself or anyone else? Write about it, pound your pillows on the bed, whack a punching bag, run a mile. Give yourself a time out — spend the anger within a chosen time-limit, then find a quiet spot, music you love, walk in a beautiful space, watch a funny movie and become really present where you are. Become the BEING you are just BEing. Just exist in this moment. Get out of your head and into the spaciousness that is always within, always part of the very cells of your body.
When you are calmed down reflect on an action plan, if you are in a position to do anything about the issue that has sent you into resistance. If not, then find something you can move forward with what feels meaningful, or fun, or useful and put your attention there. Pull yourself out of your head and into your life.
It is not easy to face life on its own terms — loss, aging, shifts in circumstances such as health issues, legal problems, or divorce may always arise. So will disheartening world events. None of us has the control we desire over life events, and all of us are inevitably headed in the same direction. There is no value to clinging to the past or to images of what we wish “could of “or “should of been”. There is only what IS right now, what belong to us because it has fallen into our lap, and what we are challenged to respond to as creatively as we can. Letting go of resistance is the first step in moving forward. Be with what actually IS. Follow what your heart tells you is the best response for you and those you are responsible to. This is a way to become free of suffering, and find clarity instead of confusion to guide your choices.