Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
– M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth
“Stress is resistance to what is”
-A common Yogic understanding of the deepr roots of Stress
As a Yoga and meditation teacher and therapist for many years I am reminded continually of the most fundamental task that needs to be accomplished in order to help my students and clients as they begin. It is helping them realize and appreciate that wellness is a indeed a “Way”, a path to travel much more than a destination.
Under distress, suffering from health issues, in pain or in seeking any goal in life the finish line often seems distant or even impossible in one’s present circumstance. One can get caught up in calculating each step, its worth and value as it relates to that goal. This is, when done in a considered way, an appropriate thing to do to prepare oneself and choose the path that will best meet these goals. However, often this calculation becomes our ballast, holding us down and becoming the rationale for ineffectual fits and starts that obscure or sabotage our progression. As we accept that there is a path to travel in Yoga, meditation or other wellness disciplines, there can come a healthy acceptance of our responsibilities: that we have created and therefore can change the very course of our lives in accordance with our goals and desires.
Sometime we helpers or seasoned practitioners call this “resistance” and can treat it as though it was an enemy of the process of growth. In fact I prefer the formulation of resistance, described by Senior Yoga teacher Sally Kempton, writing for the Online Yoga Journal in the article Yoga Philosophy – Free Yourself. She sees resistance as our as our psychological immune system. When used positively it is a mind state charged with keeping us safely stable and healthy in the fabric of our present self, lives and relationships. It helps us move toward our goals in a measured way so we can remain grounded and responsible, not flighty, compulsive or reactive in each step of journey.
There are, however all too many times and circumstances in which the unskilled handling of resistance can bog us down and be at the root of stagnation and burnout. Struggling and forcing though this can create the effect of quicksand, holding us down even further from creative growth and change. An antidote to this process is often remembering to relate to, rather than struggle against our heavier and inert mind states. Accepting and working with this aspect of ourselves with compassion developing an attitude that seeks to inquire and understand its purpose can be the most integrative way to move on in our process of growth.
Ms Kempton writes in another article Yoga Meditation – What Are You Resisting? :
“I’ve found that as I practice being present to my resistance with this questioning attitude, something does let go. Resistance eases. Just as people want to be heard, so do our psychological states. Sometimes just listening to what your resistance wants to tell you is enough for it to open the gates and free you.” (2)
A practical application of the power of this accepting approach to self is the Full Body Scan as described in this post. When you can, create enough time to explore in detail the feelings in your body in this relaxed and systematic way.Don’t struggle for comfort or to make something happen but simply accept the enitre experience of being with yourself as you are. Relax to experience the remarkable insights, shifts, and good feelings that can come by listening to yourself with acceptance, rather than judgement or struggle.
Remembering to Remember This
Moving onto the journey of wellness as a “Way” or path of living is in a very real sense a product of grace—the highest form of inspiration possible that can provide the deepest form of ongoing motivation. Rather than wrestle with the issues, symptoms or dissatisfaction we have in our life; we now use the “negative” experiences to access our longing for balance and growth.
This experience of grace has often been seen as coming uninvited and spontaneously. I believe that in the form and time of its appearance this may be so but there are ways to prepare oneself and cultivate the ground for its arrival. Yoga, meditation and our other healing practice are the ways we cultivate that ground.
Even with these wonderful benefits of skillful self-care practices commitment and consistency often remain a struggle for even the most committed practitioners. Individual motivation is important but most find that some sense of community, connecting to others can help. “Community over will power” is a phrase some use to describe this.
The roles of teacher and student, or student to student are just a couple of the ways we build our formal and informal communities of fellow pilgrims on the “way. We may be able to speak about our resistances and struggles, ask and answer questions or simply share the joys and triumphs of our growth.
These connections may also have the effect of reinforcing to one another the fact that that grace has already visited us. In this remembrance we can keep it as the joyful seed that re-generates our vision and committed to our self-care practices. If our commitment wanes and our practice lessons or sours to some degree, I believe community can help us get back our enthusiasm to build on the initial experiences of grace that steered us to this “Way” in the first place.
Therefore, I believe it is great service ourselves that to overcome challenges to our happiness we create some practice and community to support us. It can be what keep us connected to a practice that is rooted in the positive, growth enhancing aspects of our self-nurturing impulses. In this way grace can be a close friend and more constant visitor, helping us move forward through the inevitable resistances and obstacles on our way a deeper enjoyment of all life has to offer.