I find myself struggling a lot right now with something, and I suspect many of you are too. It's something I wonder how I have not mastered by now, as it appears in all of my mindfulness training and practice over the last many years, this one thing that comes up time and time and time again.
It is this:
Resistance. Such a complicated word. But not to the many teachers of Mindfulness whom I know and respect. Among them there is this whole practice around resistance and particularly . . .
Not resisting what is.
It's a thing.
A whole big thing.
And it should be. And in some circumstances I totally get it and I am a master. Like, if it is raining on a day you are supposed to have a picnic, that is disappointing. You are totally allowed to feel that. Go ahead and feel disappointed.
But stomping your feet about it and screaming and yelling and throwing your beautifully made sandwiches on the ground and cursing the rains as you stand there getting all wet . . . will not change the weather. You are simply resisting what is and making things worse for yourself and you are wasting time, time that could be spent on a beautiful alternative.
Spread out a blanket on your living floor. Eat your lunch as you watch the rain hit the window. Be grateful for a roof over your head.
I get that.
My cat pukes on the brand new hardwoods. A lot. And almost every time, I freak out. It doesn't change anything though. It only makes the situation more stressful. And the puke is still there. I just need to clean it up. It is what it is. It actually hasn't even ruined anything. I can make more effort with the vet to find out why she keeps doing this, find a solution. Or I can just stop resisting. And clean up the puke with a smile on my face (or at least not all the mumbled m*ther f*ckers) because it's there whether I like it or not.
This is the practice.
And for rainy days and cat puke I get it. Totally.
But what about the big stuff?
What about the really big stuff?
What about a president who is totally unfit? What about a justice system that is unjust? What about an environment that is being destroyed? What about kids being abused?
What about now: Corona Virus?
Don't we have to resist this really big stuff, at least to some degree? If we are going to bring about change, don't we have to fight back?
Maybe in situations where your life is immediately at risk. Maybe then you fight. Maybe if someone is trying to hold you down and beat you with a bat then you must fight back, right? Surrender could mean death. So I think you must kick and punch and get out from under it. You must.
But then when you are free, I think maybe you run off. You run away to something safe. Because if you stand there full of resentment and anger that someone dared to put their hands on you (resisting what is) and attempting to pay him/her back, maybe your attacker has a gun and since you stuck around resisting, full of indignation and revenge, you get shot.
Do you see?
It's so hard. That's why they call it a practice. We practice letting go of resistance because so often our resistance to what is brings more suffering than the circumstances themselves. A rainy day with no outdoor picnic is made worse when you throw your sandwiches on the floor. Cat puke is more disturbing when you imagine stains on your hardwood that have actually never emerged.
Being attacked by someone and then getting away is cause for gratitude.
Sticking around because you are angry that this happened and because you are interested in payback?
Well, that could get you shot. That may be a form of resistance.
But does this mean we just let everything be? Do we let presidents lie? Do we let prisons be corrupt? Do we let corporations pollute our water? Do we let parents beat their children?
Do we act like this virus isn't real?
But perhaps, rather than pushing so much on what we do not want, speaking constantly about it and bringing it all the time into our awareness with the energy of resistance, we can instead turn our attention toward what we do want. We can put our energy there. We put our words there and our actions there. We nurture that into being instead, rather than trying to destroy something else.
We nurture into being.
Intuitively, don't we all know this might be true?
Our president lies and is incompetent, about nearly everything, and about this virus for sure. So pay attention to doctors and scientists and governors around the country who are informed and strong and measured and brave and willing. Give them all of your words and your actions. Give them your energy.
Nurture them into being!
Do this with all things. Whatever you perceive as not going well, first make sure you are immediately safe. Then turn your attention toward what you want and give less . . . so much less . . . to what you do not want. And try to avoid even not wanting it. Perhaps it cannot even have THAT much energy. Even not wanting it gives it power.
Spend more of your attention on nurturing what you do want. So much more.
And know that it is okay to stay informed. It is wise. If we don't know what is going on in our own homes and communities and nations and in our world then we can't be there to create change and justice. But we must create peace too. Rather than picking up guns to shoot down what we don't believe in, we have to turn our love and hope and wisdom and openness and joy to what we want. Though even want is a tricky word. We'll save that discussion for another message though. This is challenging enough already, and I write all of this not because I do it well, but because in my heart I know it to be truth, but in my life I find it very hard to hold. I write this to myself so that I will remember to practice this in all things, big and small, because really nothing is small.
I write this because our egos keep us trapped in a cycle of wanting attention and approval and justification and our egos keep us wanting to be right and first and the best and all of these other things that keep us in resistance.
I write this because I worry and I am afraid and I am sad and I want things that I don't see.
And all of that is fighting the rain and the puke.
Don't fight the rain or the puke.
Turn away from it.
Go instead toward what you want.
And bring it into being!
A little caveat regarding COVID19:
When we talk about NOT resisting what is we don't mean pretending that it isn't real. We don't look at valid news and data about anything, including something proven to be spreading quickly and killing many, and just go about our days as if nothing needs attention. We listen to the voices of a myriad of well-prepared leaders and humans and we recognize that we are all connected and we do what we need to and what we can do to contribute to the well-being of ourselves and others.
But we must be careful about where this becomes resistance too.
Resisting would be spending all of our time on social media sharing post after post about how one's senior year of high school is ruined and his/her life will never be the same and they won't get to attend college and won't get on the intended career path and this is not fair and we can't believe this is happening. It would be stomping out of the house, refusing to stay quarantined.
But do we know with certainty that things are ruined? Maybe they aren't ruined. Maybe they are just different. But it hurts so much. We respect that too. We respect the hurt even as we look toward how to accept that things are not as we want them to be.
Resisting is having had vacation plans for a year and still going on that trip, opposed completely to the idea that your money and entertainment should be impacted by something that is inconvenient, that upsets the plans we've made and how we wanted our time to go.
But is that worth risking the well-being of yourself and others? Could phone calls me made, plans changed? Maybe.
So many of our responses to things we didn't expect show up as resistance, all sorts of energy spent pushing against things that are solid and real. So much energy wasted.
But it is also understandable. We are experiencing great loss. We are grieving. It is nothing short of that. Grief.
A lost (or at the very least significantly altered) senior year is heartbreaking. A missed vacation is a tremendous disappointment and maybe a loss of money too. We get to feel these things, and all of the other losses. We get to grieve. And you don't have to justify it or compare it or feel guilty about it. It is okay. Grieve.
And know that when others mourn what you don't, or things that you feel are lesser, it doesn't always happen out of selfishness, or at least not that alone. It happens maybe from lack of experience which leads to lack of perspective. It happens because perhaps we don't know or we forget that very little is forever. Maybe nothing is. It happens because we have so much trouble shifting our expectations. It happens because we have to understand that this too shall pass. It happens because we all have different needs and we have to honor this.
I do too. I have to honor this. I have to honor the grief of others and not question it or compare it or diminish it.
But still. Resistance, I think, won't help us. At least not in the end, not if we hold onto it for too long. It will actually hurt us. Won't it?
Because a great deal of our stress comes from wanting so much for something to be the way that it is not. This is profound. Eckhart Tolle said this.
Most of our stress comes from wanting something to be the way that it is not.
Not resisting means we feel the disappointment and sadness and anger and regret and all the grief and we let it move through us, but we do not let it move us. We recognize that this is a real thing and now there is a new reality and we want it to be different so we move toward what we want. We look at things with a different set of lenses that we did not expect to be wearing. But here they are. What do you see? What can you make out of it?
We stay home. We stay calm. We stay informed. We stay grateful, even though we may grieve our losses as well. We move toward solutions so that it doesn't last as long as it could and doesn't create more destruction than it already has and we give all of our awareness to health and peace and prosperity and joy and creation so that we . . .
bring it into being!